Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Red Sox/Dodgers blockbuster trade of 2012. Both teams are competing for division titles. The Dodgers are worlds ahead in their division and playing excellent baseball (46 wins in their last 56 games) and have benefitted from the trade in profound ways. The Sox, following the usual AL East passion play, are in a dog fight with the Tampa, Baltimore and a resurgent Yankees club.
Initially it seemed liked the Red Sox had hoodwinked the Dodgers, unloading a massive $250 million payroll albatross as well as malcontent players like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford who clearly were not happy in Boston. Dumping an increasingly ineffective Josh Beckett was a bonus. Beckett went on the DL earlier in the year and has since talked of retirement.
When the Dodgers were a mess early in the season, Red Sox fans chuckled long and loud. Now the tables have turned. The Dodgers are white hot and crushing their division. Clayton Kershaw is a bona fide NL Cy Young and MVP candidate. Gonzalez is batting .297 and has knocked in 79 runs. His home run total, 16, is just OK. Curiously, he’s never been the same since the All-Star break of 2012. Crawford is batting .293 and has been serviceable in left field but his wheels are gone. 13 stolen bases in comparison to his 43 per year average throughout his career marks a serious decline in production (Crawford stole 18 bases for Boston in 2012).
In exchange, the Red Sox gained much needed payroll relief and four prospects — none of whom are currently on the active roster. The only Dodger name in the trade, first baseman James Loney, was a forgettable .230 with two home runs with the Red Sox. Loney went to the Rays over the winter and has emerged as an important presence for the Tampa Bay, batting .308, staying healthy and knocking in 55 runs.
With the scale so tilted toward the Dodgers, Red Sox fans on a bad day may be wringing their hands over this. Not me. Boston is tied for first place with Rays and in the hunt for a playoff berth if not a divisional title one year after their worst season since 1965. Everyone won with this deal.
“This is one of those deals that I think has helped out both sides, clearly,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told USA Today Sports’ Jorge L. Ortiz.
Boston’s payroll breathing room allowed Ben Cherington to craft a new team. Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes are clubhouse and on field leaders who represent the fruits of the Dodgers trade.
As reported by the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, Victorino - then a Dodger and now a member of the Red Sox - said, “I always say I’m not surprised by anything that happens in baseball. But that was surprising.”
The season grinds on. As I write the Sox are up 4-2 over the Dodgers. This is why we watch.