BOSTON At 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after word first began to emerge, the Red Sox officially announced their blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, sending right-hander Josh Beckett, left fielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and utility infielder Nick Punto to Los Angeles in exchange for first baseman James Loney, infielder Ivan DeJesus, Jr., right-hander Allen Webster, and two players to be named later (believed to be right-hander Rubby De La Rosa and outfielderfirst baseman Jerry Sands).
The reason for the trade was simple to the Red Sox, who go into Saturday nights game against the Royals with a record of 60-66, in fourth place in the American League East, despite a payroll of 175 million.
I think we recognized that we are not who we want to be right now, said general manager Ben Cherington. Its been a large enough sample performance going back to last year that we felt like in order to be the team we want to be on the field we needed to make more than cosmetic changes. So as we looked forward to this offseason we felt like the opportunity to build the team that we need, that the fans deserve, that we want, required more of a bold move to give us an opportunity to really reshape the roster, reshape the team.
And while it was a difficult thing to do, to trade away four players like this, guys that, Beckett in particular that have been here for a long time and been part of our best times here, been on the mound for big games. Gonzalez and Crawford both obviously key acquisitions two offseasons ago and Punto a great teammate, utility player. So we gave up a lot of talent, good guys. Excited about the talent we got coming back and excited about the opportunity this gives us to build the next great Red Sox team.
The deal had been formulating most of the season, Cherington said, but really began to take shape leading up to the July 31 trading deadline.
We talked to the Dodgers all year it seems back to earlier in the year, Cherington said. I had talked to Dodgers GM Ned Coletti about Kevin Youkilis. So weve had consistent dialogue all year and at certain points that dialogue picked up. We talked quite a bit before the deadline. Didn't agree on anything at that time.
But when you talk that much you share ideas, you get to know a little bit more about what their motivation is and what theyre trying to do, and you share ideas. There were conversations at the ownership level also and over time and then recently earlier this week those conversations kind of jelled into a more sort of firm concepts in talking about what a trade might look like. So we were able to pull it off. There wasnt any one moment. It was a process that started earlier in the year and involved a lot of conversation and ideas going back and forth and ultimately led to this.
The deal gives the Sox two things they have been sorely lacking in recent seasons payroll and roster flexibility as they were hamstrung by several long-term, big-money contracts. With the Dodgers assuming all but about 12 million owed to the four players, the Sox have approximately 260 million coming off the books, money they can use going forward.
Weve looked, as we always would this time of year, weve started to look at opportunities in the offseason, Cherington said. I think the key is we are absolutely committed to building the best team that we can in 2013 and beyond and were going to do that in the most disciplined way possible. When weve been at our best weve made good decisions, disciplined decisions, found value, whether in the free agency market, trade market. Thats our job to do that. We have a core of players here still, a very talented core of players still that will be a part of our next great team and well do whatever we can to put together the best team for 2013.
It was the lack of disciplined decisions Cherington mentioned that had become an albatross for the organization.
The decisions weve made that got us to this point in aggregate I think its fair to say didnt work, Cherington said. We have to acknowledge that. We have to be honest about the fact that what we have been over the last few months of major league play is not what we want to be and theres not one decision that led to that. Its just a combination of things, different reasons. Some of them had nothing to do with personnel decisions. There are other things that are involved. Injuries are factored. etc. My point is going forward we have created flexibility for us with this deal and well take advantage of that opportunity best if we are disciplined and aggressive at the right time on the right deals for the right players.
The trade also creates several holes for the Sox, too, though. Just one player, Loney, will be joining the major league team. Loney can be a free agent at the end of the season. Additionally, the Sox have several other needs they will have to address in the offseason for 2013 and beyond.
Fans can expect us to work our tails off to put the best team together going forward starting this offseason and for 2013, Cherington said. We have to be disciplined in the way we do that. We can't go out tomorrow or the next day and fill up the payroll flexibility we just created. So that'll happen. Theres a clear commitment from ownership here. We are going to continue to have a significant payroll. Were going to continue to spend money on players and were going to be committed to building the bests team we possibly can. Its up to us to make good decisions, make disciplined decisions and thats, I think, in the past thats whats led to our best teams. I dont remember in 2004 and 2007 people talking as much about what the size of the payroll was. Just talked about how good the team was.
But, with Gonzalez and Crawford lasting less than two years in Boston despite long-term deals, will it be more difficult for the Sox to attract players going forward?
It is something we considered, Cherington said. I feel like if we are who we want to be on the field, off the field, we will be a great place for players to be and I think this ownership group knows more than most how quickly things can change. At the end of 2001 it wasnt a great time in the Red Sox organization and it wasnt a few months later where everyone wanted to be in Boston. We get back to being the team we want to be and players are going to want to be here. This is a great place to play. The highs are really high when things are going well and when theyre not it can be tough. Thats why its so important for us to get back to where we want to be and then the highs will be really high again.
The trade could also impact the culture of the clubhouse, which had been varying degrees of sour over the past calendar year, from the September 2011 collapse to on-going instances this season.
The culture will feel better when we start winning more games, Cherington said. This was about creating an opportunity to build a better team moving forward. It was not a trade that was made to try to fix a cultural problem. It was about opportunity, giving us opportunity moving forward and the culture will feel very good when we do the things that have made us good over time, the things that help us win games. So when we do those things the culture will feel good.