We could learn a lot about the Boston Red Sox over the next 10 days.

The Red Sox, who just dropped two of three to the Cincinnati Reds upon returning home to Fenway Park, will spend the next week-plus battling three American League contenders: the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Guardians and New York Yankees.

The Guardians (25-31) currently are outside the playoff picture, but the Rays (40-18) entered Friday with the best record in Major League Baseball, while the Yankees (34-24) occupied the AL’s third wild-card spot behind the Baltimore Orioles (35-21) and Houston Astros (33-23). A good showing by the Red Sox (29-27), who sit four games behind the Yankees, would go a long way toward showing Boston isn’t to be taken lightly in 2023.

The jury has been out on these Red Sox since Opening Day, and a nine-game West Coast road trip in which they went 4-5 did little to offer clarity. If anything, the picture became blurrier as it relates to Boston’s potential this season — doubly so after its back-to-back losses to Cincinnati.

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Highs and lows. That’s been the story of the Red Sox’s season. And the theme holds true heading into this weekend, when Boston hosts Tampa Bay for four games (weather permitting), including a scheduled doubleheader Saturday. Perhaps we’ll come out on the other end of this upcoming stretch with a better idea regarding the Red Sox’s direction.

Right now, more questions than answers hover over the Red Sox, starting with Chris Sale’s injury.

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Red Sox odds (June 2)*
To win World Series: +6500
To win American League: +3200
To win AL East: +4000

Oddsmakers clearly are losing faith in the Red Sox, who entered Friday having lost seven of their last 10 games, dropping Boston’s record to 29-27. Their odds to win the Word Series sat at +5000 last week; their odds to win the American League at +2500.

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The skepticism is warranted, based on Boston’s season-long inconsistency, but those with faith in the Red Sox might want to consider striking while the iron is hot. After all, sports betting is all about finding value and placing your wagers at the opportune time.

*Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook

Probable pitchers
— Friday, June 2 (7:10 p.m. ET vs. Rays): Garrett Whitlock, RHP (2-2, 5.14 ERA) vs. Tyler Glasnow, RHP (0-0, 6.23 ERA)

— Saturday, June 3 (1:10 p.m. ET vs. Rays): Tanner Houck, RHP (3-4, 5.30 ERA) vs. TBD

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— Saturday, June 3 (6:10 p.m. ET vs. Rays): TBD vs. TBD

— Sunday, June 4 (1:35 p.m. ET vs. Rays): Brayan Bello, RHP (3-3, 3.89 ERA) vs. Taj Bradley, RHP (3-2, 3.60 ERA)

Storylines to watch
1. How serious is Chris Sale’s injury?
Sale left his start Thursday night with left shoulder soreness. He underwent an MRI on Friday morning, and while Red Sox manager Alex Cora didn’t have an update before Boston’s series opener against Tampa Bay, the veteran southpaw will head to the injured list. That obviously is a significant setback for Sale, who’s battled various injuries in recent years, and the Red Sox’s rotation. So, fingers crossed the injury isn’t anything too serious.

2. Will the young guns step up?
An injury to Sale means the rest of Boston’s pitching staff needs to step up, namely the trio of Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck and Brayan Bello — all of whom will have a chance to flex their muscles this weekend. It’s not hyperbolic to say Boston’s ceiling this season will be raised or lowered by the performance of that group. A solid turn through the rotation would be huge in setting the tone.

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3. Can the Red Sox hang with the Rays?
The Rays completely overmatched the Red Sox the last time they locked horns, completing a four-game sweep at Tropicana Field back in April. Discouraging for Boston? Sure. But the Red Sox aren’t alone, as the Rays have been a total powerhouse, winning 40 of their first 58 games with a +119 run differential. There’s no denying Tampa Bay has been the better team thus far, but Boston must show at some point it can compete with the beasts of the AL East if it plans to contend for a playoff spot. After this weekend, the Red Sox and Rays won’t play again until September.

Featured image via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images