The Red Sox will capture a Wild Card spot
Why it could happen: Many harp on the fact that the Red Sox finished last in the AL East last season but that meant that they were last in baseball's most competitive division. There were a dozen teams with more losses than the Red Sox, so they were more middle of the pack than the bottom of the barrel.
We can't forget that the Red Sox held the top Wild Card spot in mid-July last year. The loss of Trevor Story in the lineup followed by a rash of injuries that ravaged the pitching staff left the Red Sox spiraling. They finished eight games out of a playoff spot but Boston was still in the hunt entering September and only two AL teams missed the postseason with a better record than the Red Sox.
Boston made significant upgrades to their bullpen, fixing a weakness that cost them several opportunities to win last season. The starting rotation admittedly has some red flags but the improved depth will help them stay afloat when injuries strike.
Letting Bogaerts get away undoubtedly hurts. While there isn't anyone who can replace what Xander brought to the team, the combination of new additions can collectively upgrade the lineup. Masataka Yoshida has the ability to hit for average and get on base. Adam Duvall provides a home run threat this team was missing last year. Justin Turner is a proven veteran run producer.
One of the most notable upgrades is at first base. Red Sox first basemen ranked 14th in the AL with a .210 AVG and 12th with a .369 SLG. The combination of Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero was even more dreadful in the field than they were at the plate. FanGraphs valued Red Sox first baseman at -0.6 WAR. Casas doesn't even need to deliver on the ROY prediction in order to provide a massive upgrade.
Perhaps the greatest advantage the Red Sox will have over last year's team is the balanced schedule being implemented for the 2023 season. Boston went 26-50 against the AL East last season but they had winning records against the other two AL divisions and they were 9-11 in interleague play. The Red Sox will have fewer games against divisional opponents under the revamped schedule. Sure, that will mean facing more of the elite NL teams but they aren't likely to fare any worse against them than they did against the top trio in their own division. Many of the games against the Yankees, Jays, and Rays that are being subtracted from their schedule will be spread out among teams ranging from mediocre to terrible. It would be nearly impossible for the Red Sox to fare worse against those teams than they did against the top AL East teams last year.
Why we can't lock it in: Boston still resides in the ultra-competitive AL East, which probably puts a division title out of reach. If they are going to make the playoffs, it will almost certainly need to be as one of the three Wild Card teams.
Health is always a factor. Boston was derailed by injuries last season and they aren't off to a great start this spring. We still don't know if Story will take the field this season. James Paxton and Garrett Whitlock are among the pitchers dealing with injuries that threaten their availability for Opening Day. Most of the ailments plaguing the roster seem relatively minor and could be in the rear-view mirror by the time we get to May, but can they avoid further catastrophes? It's hard to imagine their injury luck being worse than last season but Boston's margin for error is thinner than it is for most playoff contenders.
The Red Sox have plenty of lingering questions to fuel the doubters but there's also enough talent on this roster to make a playoff run. If the other four predictions come even remotely close to happening, the Red Sox playing meaningful baseball in October might not seem so bold after all.