Daniel Nava’s Breakout, John Lackey’s Rebound at Heart of Red Sox’ First-Half Superlatives (Photos)

Daniel NavaIt’s cliche, but what a difference a year makes.

The Red Sox’ 2012 campaign never really got off the ground, as the team stumbled to a 69-93 record and a last-place finish in the American League East. This season, Boston enters the All-Star break with an AL-best 58-39 record and a 2 1/2-game lead in the AL East.

Obviously, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, as there’s a lot of baseball to be played. But the Red Sox have the look and feel of a legitimate contender, which is a stark contrast from last season, when it seemed as if Boston would linger in mediocrity for a few seasons. In fact, the Red Sox’ .598 win percentage is .172 points better than their .426 mark in 2012, which represents the biggest turnaround — either positive or negative — in the majors this season.

This season’s turnaround has been about much more than wins and losses, however. The vibe has completely changed in the Red Sox’ clubhouse, and Boston fans are now getting to watch an extremely likeable team day in and day out. Words like grit, resiliency, heart and determination have replaced the not-so-positive terms that were tossed around following the Red Sox’ rough patch.

We’re still fewer than 100 games into the season, but 2013 has already had its fair share of surprises, breakout performances, big wins and memorable moments. Check out the following gallery to relieve the best of the best from the first half.

Click here to relive the Red Sox’ first half >>

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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