There’s a handful of directions to go when getting bold with predicting where the 2024 Boston Red Sox will finish, and it goes beyond the team’s overall record or postseason chances.

The Red Sox will look to avoid a third consecutive last-place finish in the American League East, but it won’t be easy. Division foes like the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles were both active in improving their respective rosters this past offseasons, meaning Boston will need to break out in several ways to flip a downward 2023 into a competitive 2024.

Here are four bold predictions before the Red Sox open up their campaign in Seattle against the Mariners on (late) Thursday night:

1.) Brayan Bello will finish the season as unofficial team MVP
Bello was handed the keys as Boston’s unofficial ace, given a six-year, $55 million contract extension plus the Opening Day nod, at just 24 years old. But after Bello attempted to heroically stabilize the starting rotation last season, there wasn’t another candidate for the Red Sox to consider.

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In 2023, Bello led the pitching staff in innings pitched (157) while showing significant growth in pace as the bright spot on the roster. Taking that full season of MLB experience, the expectations go up a notch for Bello, who will be leaned on by Red Sox manager Alex Cora to take an even greater leap in 2024. That means bringing last season’s 4.24 ERA down and carrying his strong stretch of June-August by maintaining it in September.

2.) Triston Casas will take major leap with 30-plus home run season
Offensively, Casas was the most encouraging piece of the youth movement that will overtake the Red Sox in 2024, therefore it’s only right to set the bar even higher for the 24-year-old moving forward.

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Casas flipped the script on his rookie season — and quickly. In the first 25 games of 2023, Casas batted only .133, striking out 33 times in 75 at-bats while also struggling to get acclimated as a big-league first baseman. But after getting more comfortable in the batter’s box, including a .349 month of July with seven home runs, Casas skyrocketed to AL Rookie of the Year candidacy.

With Justin Turner gone, Casas needs to step up and pair with teammate Rafael Devers to create a potentially lethal one-two left-handed power punch.

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3.) Trevor Story will contend for American League Comeback Player of the Year Award
Since joining the Red Sox on a six-year, $140 million contract signed in 2022, Story has struggled in various ways, most notably in staying healthy and on the field at shortstop. That makes the two-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger winner the perfect candidate for a comeback season in 2024.

Story took a leadership initiative in the offseason, hosting a workout camp for Red Sox teammates, making it abundantly clear that the 31-year-old wants to produce at a high level. If able to stabilize Boston’s defense — which finished with an AL-leading 102 errors — at shortstop, Story could even contend for his first-career Gold Glove and possibly an All-Star spot in the midsummer Classic.

“When I signed up (before the 2022 season), I remember watching Fenway in the playoffs,” Story said, per The Athletic’s Tyler Kepner at spring training. “I was like, ‘Damn, that’s a special place, man.’ You always knew it was, but the prospect of it just finally became real. I fell in love with that, so we’re all super eager for it. We have some work to do, but I feel good about it.”

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4.) Jarren Duran will (again) emerge as the x-factor of Red Sox outfield
Duran was the most out-of-the-blue surprise in 2023, coming out of his shell after not making the Opening Day roster and filling in for an injured Adam Duvall in late April.

Boston’s move to recall Duran from Triple-A was rewarded overnight. The speedy 27-year-old utilized his greatest strength to an immense extent, routinely turning singles into doubles, finishing with 44 extra-base hits. Duran was fairly settled defensively too, logging a .994 fielding percentage while committing one error in 171 defensive chances.

As Masastaka Yoshida slides in as Boston’s designated hitter, the opportunity for Duran to showcase his lead-off bat and speed, potentially as one of the most valuable outfielders on the team’s depth chart.

Featured image via Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports Images