Everyone that follows major league baseball woke up this morning and felt it. The rumbling through the baseball world as Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington executed quite possibly the biggest trade of a generation. The Red Sox sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for James Loney and three other prospects. Also, the Dodgers will assume over 250 million dollars in future salary considerations. The move is so big, with so many moving parts that it genuinely is hard to figure out its impact at this point. What is clear is this move will have massive reprecussions for years o come.
The Red Sox essentially traded away three of the worst contracts in baseball. The Sox were going nowhere fast with these players so the powers in Boston blew it up. So where does it leave them? James Loney will come over from the Dodgers and be the new starting first baseman for the Sox. Loney has been a disappointment as a prospect since his first full season in the bigs. Also coming over to the Red Sox is infielder Ivan DeJesus, starting pitcher Allen Webster and, officially, two players to be named later (though it has been widely reported that those players will be pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and IF/OF Jerry Sands). All of the players are young; are an attempt to fill a weakness in the roster, and almost all of them have seen at least some major league playing time.
Most importantly however, the Red Sox are now free from some of the worst contracts in the American League. With new financial flexibility the team has much more power to directly address needs in free agency or extend someone like Jacoby Ellsbury or David Ortiz. As a poster on the Red Sox forum The Sons of Sam Horn stated today: "Imagine someone just came to your house and said 'Surprise! I just paid your mortgage!'".
At the end of the day the baseball world will not feel the full impact of this deal until next year. This year, the Red Sox look as though the have waived the white flag. The rotation that was already an inconsistent jumble is now weaker, their lineup is taking a big hit without Gonzalez and Crawford sitting in the middle of it. Sure they were both under-performing but take out their current numbers and replace them with a month and a half of James Loney and Daniel Nava in an already under-performing team and you have the makings of a team that really just wants to end this season as quickly as possible while saving face.
The AL East will truly feel the impact of this deal next year. The Red Sox are a team at a crossroads. They have freed up a ton of money but I don't see them going out a spending it Yankee-style any time soon. Moreover, there is no guarantee the moves they will make will 1)work out or 2)be the right moves. The same goes with their development plan. The Red Sox with this move have become mortal again and subject to the successes and pitfalls; booms and busts of the player development cycle. Looking at their depth chart right now it is a much more pedestrian team than the one that took the field to start the 2011 campaign, the team labeled "The Greatest Team Ever" by the Boston Globe.
How does this impact the Orioles? It is still far too soon to tell. In the short term I think it is a big help. The Orioles will play the Red Sox multiple times in September and anything that makes them weaker in that span can only help the Birds as they make their playoff run. Going forward it largely depends on what the Sox next move is. But what I am confident in saying is that today we witnessed a fundamental power shift in the American League. The AL East will be weaker next year with an aging New York team and weaker Boston squad, while the the Texas Rangers and LA Angels quickly become the new classes of the American League. The Red Sox will rebound, they will come back, but the Orioles and the rest of the AL East will have a window of opportunity to get stronger and solidify their programs as the Red Sox go into their rebuilding process.
Today the Red Sox completed a trade of seismic proportions. It will have long-lasting effects on their organization, the Orioles and the rest of the American League. Who are the real winners and losers? That is something that remains to be seen and we will all have to wait for history to render a final verdict.