Dancing in the Dark

865481.jpg

Dancing in the Dark

On Thursday afternoon, I left Boston for a bachelor party down in Hilton Head. Although, the destination isnt nearly as important as the fact that, upon arrival, I quickly realized that cell phone service on the island was shakier than Daniel Bard. Actually, scratch that. The service was more like John Lackey completely useless but still infuriatingly present. The kind of thing where every once in a while youll see a random bar or two pop up on the phone, but by the time you open your email, the connections long gone.

Anyway, for obvious reasons, I freaked out. No cell service meant no calls, no texts, no Twitter, no e-mail, no Words or Scramble With Friends. No letting co-workers borrow my phone to coordinate secret meetings with my boss. It meant an instant, unexpected and involuntary removal from society, and in turn, an anxiety attack . . .

. . . which of course subsided after a few hours.

It always does. At least for me. Ill find myself in a place where my phone doesnt work and after a brief panic, Ill embrace it. Ill feel liberated and start saying annoying things like: Aaahhh, no phone. This is FREEDOM! So, by Thursday night, Id made peace with my weekend off the grid. Granted, it helped that Boston was about to embark on one of its most quiet sports weekends of the year. No Bs. No Cs. A Pats preseason game and a series between two of the worst teams in the American League. It was actually the perfect time to escape; to re-charge my brain for the start of football season.

Ha!

The next day, everything changed.

The Red Sox pulled off one of the largest, most historic and franchise-altering trades in their 112 years of existence. The Internet caught fire. Twitter exploded. I assume sports talk and Sports Tonight ratings went through the roof. All things considered, it probably turned into one of the most inspired and memorable weekends in recent Boston sports history.

Meanwhile, I was in South Carolina pacing around like Chris Farley in Black Sheep, killing myself to find a signal that didn't exist. Eventually, I had to give up, and accept the fact that I wasn't going to get a handle on everything that happened until returning on Sunday night. It hurt, but there was nothing I could do, and by Saturday, I had once again settled into my non-existence and committed myself to enjoying what was left of my time off the grid.

So here I am on Monday morning. Back in reality, with my cell phone glued to my hand and the new look Red Sox staring me in the face. To be honest, I'm still catching up. Still wading through stories, tweets, quotes and analysis from all the parties involved and coming to grips with the reality of this most unrealistic development. But the show must go on.

For our first order of business, lets give a quick paragraph to the four most recent ex-Red Sox:

Josh Beckett: I was looking at Becketts Baseball Reference page this morning and noticed that hes only finished in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting twice in his career. The two years: 2007 and 2011. Pretty fitting, right? The season that left us forever indebted to his greatness and the season that will leave us forever loathing his arrogance. Thank God the Sox traded for him in 2005, and thank God they shipped his ass out of town on Saturday.

Adrian Gonzalez: In May of 2011, Gonzalez delivered one of the most dominant and enjoyable hitting displays that Ive ever seen in a Red Sox uniform. Not since the best days of Manny or a young Nomar Garciaparra had a guy been so locked in in so many ways. At the time, I (and the rest of New England) couldn't have been more excited about what the next seven years would bring. But at this point, here's a statistic that's more telling than anything the All-Star first baseman did last spring: Adrian Gonzalez, a former No. 1 overall pick with more talent than all but a few players in the world, has now been traded four times in his career. There's something off about that, in the same way that there's just something off about Gonzalez.

Carl Crawford: On August 19, Crawford came to the plate in the ninth inning of an eventual 4-1 loss to the Yankees, and at that moment we all knew that it would be a while before we saw him again. However, we never imagined that instead, his lead-off single would mark the last at-bat of the most disappointing stint in Red Sox history. But despite the enormous let down of watching one of the game's most exciting and impactful players repeatedly fall on his face, it's almost impossible to hold the same contempt for Crawford that we have for Beckett and, to a lesser extent, Gonzalez. To steal a quote from the Belichick Files: "It just didn't work out." And now that the Sox are essentially free from the burden of Crawford's ridiculous contract, there's not much else to do but shrug our shoulders and move on.

Nick Punto: You know that scene in Waynes World when Wayne and Garth are standing in front of the blue screen? If not, here you go. Also, in the scope of this trade, Nick Punto is Delaware.

So, that's what's gone, But what's left here in Boston? Well, first of all, a new-found respect for Ben Cherington. We wanted bold. We wanted decisive. We wanted to unleash a bombshell that would shake that clubhouse to its core. Well, BC did that and then some. In the process, he took an enormous step towards resuscitating a nearly-unconscious fan base and giving us all reason to believe that the darkest days of this stretch of Red Sox baseball are firmly in the rear view.

But it's only one step. Despite all the skill, determination and creativity that it took to even get this far, there's no question that Cherington's most difficult task still lies ahead. After all, it's one thing to dismantle a franchise, it's another thing to build it back up. Especially, when we're still not exactly sure what's going on behind the scenes.

Will Lucchino still have a heavy hand in player personnel or is he finally ready to let Ben loose? How much will ownership want to spend? Will the departure of Beckett and Gonzalez actually right the ship in that topsy-turvy clubhouse? Who's the manager? Does this move set the wheels in motion on Fenway Sports Group finally answering our prayers and selling the team?

Those are five questions, but we could go on. And there's no doubt that we will over the course of this last month of the season. It's going to be a crazy, confusing and cathartic experience for everyone involved.

In many ways, it will be a lot like my cell phone and Internetless experience down in South Carolina.

From now until the start of this offseason (and even beyond that), the wheels will be turning behind the scenes at Yawkey Way. Conversations will be had, plans will be made, the future of this franchise will be taking shape in real time. But we won't have a clue what's really going on. We'll be stuck in the dark. In the meantime, we'll scramble around like Farley in Black Sheep trying to pick up a signal, any ounce of information that can help clarify the situation and provide some insight into where this thing is headed.

It will be stressful. It will be frustrating.

And most likely futile.

But at the same time, it will be liberating. Thanks to this trade, in many ways, we're now free. Free from the non-stop insanity and drama that surrounded Beckett. Free from the limitations that came with the more than 200M that was tied into Gonzalez and Crawford. Free from the fear that the Sox were not only stuck in this debilitating rat race, but that there was no end in sight.

Sure, it's only a matter of time before the insanity starts again. Once the World Series ends and the offseason begins, we'll all be thrown right back into the madness. But for the next month, despite being in the dark, we can at least find some peace and perspective in our time off the grid, in the aftermath of what might be the first step in finally restoring order at Fenway.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

red_sox_pedroia_092416.jpg

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

pablo-sandoval-4-2015.jpg

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015.