The Boston Red Sox ended their rather quiet offseason trade activity, dealing pitcher Chris Sale to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday for infielder Vaughn Grissom to pull the organization’s most surprising move thus far.

Sale, who joined the Red Sox as an initial blockbuster addition back in 2016, lasted six seasons in Boston and most notably helped the organization capture its ninth World Series title — recording the final out in the 2018 Fall Classic against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Yet, ever since then, Sale has struggled to remain healthy, undergoing a rocky, injury-riddled stretch that began when the left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020. Though making 31 starts in the last three seasons has posed a challenge, Sale has maintained a determined demeanor to regain a level of consistency, making the decision to part ways a rather difficult one from Boston’s perspective.

“Anytime you trade someone like Sale who has made such a meaningful contribution, it’s a really, really tough decision,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow told reporters after the trade, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive. “… It’s something I was very mindful of. In the end, I felt like this was a decision that was best for the Red Sox.”

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When acquired from the Chicago White Sox, the Red Sox envisioned Sale as a top-of-the-line starter for years to come. And through Sale’s first two seasons in Boston, that’s exactly what he was, pitching to a 2.56 ERA with 545 strikeouts from 2017-2018, representing the Red Sox as an All-Star in both seasons consecutively.

The Red Sox rewarded Sale’s contributions after striking out then-Dodger Manny Machado to win the World Series, by extending him to a five-year, $145 million contract extension ahead of the 2019 season. With two years remaining on that deal before Sale becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2026, Boston is on the hook for $17 million of Sale’s $27.5 million salary for 2024, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

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The final stretch of Sale’s run in Boston was a frustrating roller coaster ride for all parties involved. Sale underwent a handful of medical examinations, rehab assignments, and returns to the mound while the Red Sox struggled to compete with the rest of the American League East — finishing dead last in three of the last four seasons.

“He was quite appreciative and understanding of the position and the opportunity to influence the longer-term outlook of this team and the chance to go to a team that’s likely to compete for a World Series championship in the (National League),” Breslow added, per Cotillo.

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Now as a member of a Braves team that’s two seasons removed from their latest World Series title, Sale joins an Atlanta squad that’s made six consecutive postseason appearances.

Sale will return to Fenway Park when the Red Sox host the Braves for a brief two-game series from June 4-5.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports