There’s logic in the Red Sox’ decision making, but it hasn’t kept them from being a mess

The Red Sox traded their starting catcher, but added a few players while they hover around .500.

Alex Cora and umpire Bill Welke argue, with Cora's arms out, exasperated.
Alex Cora was ejected after arguing a reviewed call with home plate umpire Bill Welke on Thursday night, as his team slipped back below .500. Charlie Riedel/Associated Press


The danger in being both a buyer and a seller at the trade deadline was the likelihood it would make the Red Sox successful at neither. Three days later, here we are, another pleasant surprise series against the Astros followed by a flop to open their trip to sweltering Kansas City.

One week of games doesn’t define a season, but this one fits perfectly with the 100-odd games that came before. The Red Sox clawed out a couple wins against a genuine AL contender despite the departure of Christian Vázquez cutting them deeply.

Then, settled and fully assembled against the dreadful Royals, they quickly scored a couple runs before the offense went dark. Nick Pivetta was good, but caught a bit of bad luck. The game got to the seventh tied after Matt Barnes threw a clean inning, but Darwinzon Hernandez missed just about every spot he tried to hit.


He’s capable of better, but his career is defined by that ensuing “but.” Battled Nicky Lopez, but only after three straight balls. Puts sliders on the corner to MJ Melendez and Bobby Witt Jr., but made a massive miss to Salvador Perez, the one KC hitter you truly can’t miss

“We’ve still got three more games in this series and to burn [righthander Garrett Whitlock] or somebody else, it doesn’t make sense,” manager Alex Cora told reporters on the decision to give Hernandez back-to-back lefties at the top of the order. “We need to do a good job there.”

It was a reasonable choice, but it didn’t work. That’s the reigning tagline of the 2022 season, and the roads that led the Red Sox to it.

It certainly comes to mind given Thursday’s other big news: The release of Jackie Bradley Jr., who hit just .210/.257/.321 in 91 games and who was a negative-WAR player despite still being a stellar defensive presence.

Trying to sell high on Hunter Renfroe off a career-high OPS? A reasonable choice, but it didn’t work because the Sox built a roster with Bradley — coming off a career-low OPS — as the primary replacement. The logic, such as it was, was that he’d hit enough that his defense would make up the difference, and the lineup would cover him.


It was wonderful to get to watch him in the Red Sox outfield again. That said, it didn’t work.

Giving Bobby Dalbec the everyday first-base job, hoping he would build on a strong offensive conclusion to 2021 and improve at least slightly from being bottom-three at the position defensively? The latter half, he actually has done believe it or not, at least beyond defensive runs saved.

I’ll declare slightly on the side of it being a reasonable choice. Regardless, it didn’t work.

It’s hard not to like the acquisition of Eric Hosmer, given it cost the Red Sox nothing but the minimum salary and second-tier pitching prospect Jay Groome — this despite many Padres fans being overjoyed simply that Hosmer’s gone. (The eight years, $144 million he got aged a little worse than the five years and $110M that J.D. Martinez did about a week later in February 2018.)

Beyond that, though? Tommy Pham makes the Red Sox outfield a little better than it was before the deadline, but he’s a genuine rental. Subtracting Vázquez’s production is likely survivable, and a reunion this winter is at least a minor possibility, but you can count on one hand the number of contenders who survive changing catchers midstream.


J.D. Martinez and Nate Eovaldi are likely still here primarily because their trade value was less than the compensation picks the Red Sox will gain if they leave as free agents. Vázquez, along with having more value in a catcher-starved deadline pool, wouldn’t have netted a compensation pick because he’d absolutely have accepted a qualifying offer.

Individually, all of these decisions make some level of sense. Collectively, they have left the Red Sox over the competitive balance tax, which under the league’s new labor deal means that the compensation picks they’ll get will be two rounds later.

The upside? The Red Sox can still chase it this year. They’re one game below .500, but within arm’s reach of a playoff spot if they could only consistently play the kind of baseball that’s eluded them for all but June.

In another year, that 20-6 month might prove a sort of siren’s song that kept them from doing what would’ve been the smartest move. In this one? I think what they had to sell left them in limbo. In NBA terms, not bad enough to be a high lottery team, but not good enough to compete for a title.

In many ways, the worst place to be.

They’ve got 55 games still guaranteed, and they need to win 37 of them to get to 90 victories. With 32 of those 55 are within the AL East, it seems highly advisable they win the three left this weekend against a Royals club that full-on sold. (Even though the return seemed entirely underwhelming.)


Compared to the things listed above, it feels a much less reasonable ask.

Who knows? Maybe this will be one out of all of them that works.

We’ll see if it works.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on