Trading away Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto last August was like taking medication in the midst of a brutal headache. Seven months later, despite some minor residual effects, it’s clear the Red Sox are prepared to tackle the 2013 season with a clear head.
The Dodgers? Not so much.
Boston was immediately praised in the aftermath of its 2012 megadeal with Los Angeles. The Red Sox somehow found a way to shed more than $250 million in unsavory player salaries, thus setting themselves up for a more fruitful future. The Dodgers, meanwhile, rolled the dice that Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett will all play up to their potential with a change of scenery and, in turn, push L.A. over the top in the National League. But as a new season approaches, and Crawford prepares to potentially miss his second consecutive Opening Day (this time in a Dodgers uniform), it’s quite obvious that life has improved at the Boston baseball scene, even if the Dodgers enter 2013 as the more talented team.
The Sox started last season with plenty of talent on their roster, yet the September collapse of 2011, the hiring of Bobby Valentine and the burden of having poor contracts on the payroll dampened the mood and brought out the pessimist in most. Some pessimists remain as we enter the 2013 campaign, but it’s more because of questions about the Red Sox’ current talent level in comparison to the rest of the teams in the American League East. It’s no longer because of factors that seem very much beyond the team’s control.
The Red Sox might finish under .500 this season, or they could enjoy a huge bounce-back year and contend amongst their AL East brethren. Regardless of one’s expectations, though, the Red Sox should feel refreshed after enjoying an offseason free of the pre-blockbuster headaches.
There were no cries to move Beckett. There were no questions to be answered regarding his clubhouse behavior. And there are no longer any concerns about whether he’s holding back Jon Lester and stunting the development of the organization’s other hurlers.
There were also no complaints regarding Gonzalez. There were no gripes about his power outage. There was no nitpicking his overall impact on the lineup. And we no longer had to listen to comparisons between Gonzalez’s Red Sox tenure and the time when Manny Ramirez formed a potent 1-2 punch with David Ortiz.
As for the whole Crawford debacle? Let’s just say that not having to worry about if and when he’ll play, who will replace him or whether he’ll ever return to All-Star form are all reasons for Ben Cherington to sleep a little easier.
The Red Sox have plenty of new faces this season, all of which have good clubhouse reputations. That hardly guarantees a winning squad, but it certainly makes the Sox a much more likeable team, especially when you see the players that were shipped away still struggle to overcome their vices.
The spring emergence of Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster — two pitchers acquired in August’s trade — only enhances the notion that the Sox are in a much better place than they were seven months ago.
Will the Red Sox enjoy more success than the Dodgers in 2013? Probably not. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Dodgers, having spent wildly, will someday experience a major hangover. The Red Sox already suffered through that hangover, and now they’re feeling refreshed.