The Red Sox officially announced their deal with the Dodgers on Monday night, roughly 12 hours before pitchers and catchers were due in Fort Myers for the start of spring training — and, simultaneously, the start of a new era in team history.
The baseball operations department is under new leadership. The new field manager, Ron Roenicke, is interim for now. And the organization’s pride and joy of Boston’s player development system, who became a perennial MVP threat as a big leaguer, now plays for Los Angeles.
As the details were sorted through over recent days, and a reworked deal was finalized, the pundits have widely acknowledged the rarity of a big-budget team trading away a player of Mookie Betts’s age and ability. And rightfully so. Betts is a singular talent. A generational star.
But trading away top-end talent is nothing new for Boston. And we’re not making a century-old connection to Babe Ruth.
The first two decades of the 21st century have been highlighted by four World Series championships for the Red Sox — though in between duck-boat parades the team has pressed the reset button a few times, too, and in that process has traded away plenty of star power. Enough, in fact, to fill out a functional roster.
What follows is a crack at what could be called Boston’s 21st-century All-Traded Team, comprised of those the Red Sox have traded since 2001. Players were chosen based on their value after being dealt, which is for some defined by what they delivered, and for others is predicated on promise, with career achievement given minimal consideration.
Collectively it’s telling of the level of talent that has made its way through Fenway Park since the Fenway Sports Group took over (Disclaimer: Red Sox owner John Henry is owner of Boston Globe Media Partners, including Boston.com) — and those four titles stand as a testament to what the club has made of its assets. Betts may mark new territory, and it’ll be years before we know whether they properly maximized their commodity in his case, but with the team that follows comes a suggestion that, long term, the Sox will survive this.
1. Mookie Betts, CF: Last summer there was chatter around the region about Betts’s disappointing season, and in the end he ranked lower in the MVP balloting (eighth) than he had since 2015. He wound up scoring 135 runs, hitting 29 homers, and posting a .915 OPS. Yeah, a down year indeed.
2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B: He slugged 20 homers for the Sea Dogs a summer before being sent to San Diego in the deal that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston — then earned MVP votes in five of his first six full seasons with the Cubs.
3. Manny Ramirez, LF: It might’ve been the right time for the Red Sox to move on, but a motivated Manny went to the Dodgers, hit .396 with a 1.232 OPS, and finished fourth in the NL MVP race despite playing just 53 games in the league. He followed it up the next year with a .949 OPS, too.
4. Adrian Gonzalez, DH: The narrative is that it was never going to work in Boston. The numbers say he hit .321 with a .382 OPS in more than 1,200 plate appearances with the Sox, then remained one of the NL’s most valuable players for three years after being dealt to the Dodgers.
5. Hanley Ramirez, SS: He earned rookie of the year honors at age 22, and was the NL’s MVP runner-up by his fourth season in Miami. Over parts of seven seasons with the Marlins he posted 26.9 WAR, then played his way back into the conversation of the game’s best players during his first year in Los Angeles.
6. Yoenis Cespedes, RF: His stay in Boston was brief, but he earned MVP votes in each of the two seasons immediately following the Sox’ decision to parlay their return for Jon Lester into Rick Porcello.
7. Nomar Garciaparra, 3B: His five post-Red Sox seasons were mediocre on the whole, but he did put together an impressive debut in Los Angeles, playing his way onto the All-Star team and fringes of the 2006 NL MVP conversation.
8. Scott Hatteberg, C: In seven seasons with the Sox, he played just one inning at a defensive position other than catcher. Once he was traded he never caught again — but his plate discipline earned him 860 more major-league games and immortalization by way of Chris Pratt.
9. Freddie Sanchez, 2B: He was the key piece in the Sox’ re-acquisition of Jeff Suppan during the summer of 2003, and Sanchez seized his opportunity at more regular playing time. He made three All-Star teams with the Pirates, won a batting title, and was later the starting second baseman for the world champion Giants of 2010.
Marwin Gonzalez, Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, Yoan Moncada, Doug Mirabelli: Everyone on the bench received MVP votes after being traded by the Red Sox — except for Mirabelli, but that’s only because Tim Wakefield was never given a ballot.
1. Jon Lester, LHP: After receiving Cy Young votes just once as a member of the Red Sox, Lester’s name has made its way onto the ballot three times since. He’s also added a third world title to a resume that is edging toward the boundaries of a borderline Hall of Famer.
2. David Price, LHP: His time in Boston was underwhelming, particularly given the price tag. But he was the most important player in the 2018 postseason, and with the benefit of National League lineups along with others to carry the load in LA’s rotation, a strong rebound season with the Dodgers won’t be a surprise.
3. Anibal Sanchez, RHP: From age 25-30 he delivered six straight seasons with a better-than-average ERA, highlighted by his first two seasons in Detroit, when it was he — and not Justin Verlander — who served as the real No. 2 behind ace Max Scherzer in the Tigers’ rotation.
4. Bronson Arroyo, RHP: He fired 240 innings in the season that followed the Sox’ spring training decision to swing him for Wily Mo Pena, and totaled 1,690 over the eight seasons he initially spent in Cincinnati. During that span, he received MVP votes, and Cy Young votes, but never threw fewer than 199 frames in a single season.
5. John Lackey, RHP: After salvaging his good graces by helping the Sox win the 2013 title, he was sent to St. Louis. He made a brilliant postseason start for the Cardinals, then came back the next year and established himself among the NL’s best arms. A year later he helped the Cubs break their lengthy championship drought.
Michael Kopech, Javier Lopez, Alex Wilson, Hunter Strickland, Mark Melancon, Andrew Miller: This wouldn’t be a particularly strong part of the team. But, in their primes, Miller was a lethal weapon and Melancon was an All-Star closer. Lopez was a reliable lefty who has four rings. Strickland and Wilson have both carried success over successive big-league seasons. And Kopech has the cannon to be special when he fully returns from his 2018 Tommy John surgery.
Dave Roberts: Because people around here need no reminder of what he can bring from the bench.
Theo Epstein: The Cubs aren’t in a much better spot than the Red Sox these days. Hard to imagine anyone in Chicago would suggest the past eight seasons haven’t been worth giving up career minor-leaguer Aaron Kurcz and the less-famous Chris Carpenter, however.