BOSTON (CBS) – It was the biggest trade in Major League Baseball history, and one year later it appears both sides came out winners.
So it’s only fitting that on the anniversary of the blockbuster trade, the Red Sox and Dodgers would tango in Hollywood.
Both are first place teams with their eye on the ultimate prize in October, and a lot of that has to do with their late-summer swap last August.
When the Red Sox sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto out West, they not only shed over $250 million in payroll but basically hit the reset button on the franchise. With one of the worst seasons in franchise history slowly (and painfully) drawing to a close, Ben Cherington cast off some of the personalities that many felt contributed to the fractured clubhouse that plagued the Sox at the end of 2011 and throughout 2012, opening the door for a makeover for 2013.
Read: Red Sox-Dodgers Preview
The salary relief led to the signings of Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino – not big names by any means but good clubhouse guys – to short-term contracts. While their salaries may be above market value, Cherington shelled out some extra dough for shorter deals, which is a big part of why he traded a guy like Gonzalez in the first place. That salary flexibility will come into play again this offseason, as center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is set to hit the open market.
In addition to the salary relief, Cherington also got a pair of top prospects to boot in reliever Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. Both have seen Major League action this season, and despite each of their rookie struggles (Webster has a 9.57 ERA after six starts, and De La Rosa is very familiar with the commute from Pawtucket to Boston) the raw potential remains for the two to be key contributors in Boston for years to come. That, or they would be great trade chips down the road.
With a new, much more likable team sitting in first place, the Red Sox are happy as can be at pulling off the trade. And the Dodgers must be feeling pretty… pretty… pretty good as well.
They made the move in hopes of making the playoffs last season, but fell short of that goal. It looked as though the Red Sox had committed grand theft when the Dodgers got off to a horrific start of the season, but their 45-10 record since late June has them comfortably on top of the NL West, but among the best teams in baseball.
Gonzalez is batting .298 with 16 homers and 78 RBIs for L.A. this season. His power numbers remain down from his days in San Diego, but he has had a number of big hits for the Dodgers late in games, and has been a consistent force in the middle of their lineup.
Crawford and Beckett have both been slowed by injuries, with Beckett done for the season as he recovers from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery following an 0-5 start. But although Crawford missed over a month to start the season, he is now L.A.’s leadoff man, batting .289 with 50 runs scored. He’s come on strong this last month, batting .321 with seven doubles and 10 runs scored as the Dodgers have won 18 of their last 21 games.
Not to be forgotten is Nick Punto, who despite being seen as a toss-in last August has been coming up big for L.A.. The utility man has filled in at second base, short stop and third while hitting a robust .375 this month. Not to mention, he’s putting his “Shredder” nickname to use and making friends in high (or in this case, low) places. He may just have a cameo on “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” coming his way.
But let’s get back to business, and discuss who — if anyone — won this deal? Is this the very rare instance where both sides made out? Red Sox manager John Farrell thinks so.
“This is one of those deals that I think has helped both sides, clearly,” he said from Los Angeles, where the Sox open a three-game set with the Dodgers on Friday night. “You can’t say it hasn’t worked for both teams, given what Gonzalez and Crawford have done, and the freedom it allowed Ben to have; an open canvas to reconstruct a team that needed to become a little more diverse, or add depth to a team that needed it.”
“If that trade was pushing the reset button, he pushed it with both hands,” said Farrell. “To get back to the point of being able to construct a team that he felt was not only needed in Boston, but represented what he felt was the right things about a team and a clubhouse and how a team would go out and compete together.”
The former Red Sox players are extremely happy out West, as they have made it clear over and over again (and a dozen times more just for good measure) since the trade was made. The Dodgers are now a winning ball club again, with a real shot at playing in the fall classic for the first time since 1988.
The Red Sox have a refreshed franchise, one that has won back the fan base, and is also making their case to be World Series contenders. They are not only winning now, but have financial flexibility for years to come, with Dustin Pedroia the only player signed after 2015.
In contrast, the Dodgers will still have Gonzalez and Crawford on the books for big money as they enter the downswing of their careers. But if they can “win now,” fans probably won’t care what Magic Johnson and company are shelling out in a few years.
One year later, it’s tough to tell who got the better of last August’s blockbuster trade. At this point, both teams are happy with their returns, and more importantly, winning. The Dodgers may feel the burn in a few years, but they made the trade to turn the team into an instant World Series contender. The Red Sox did it to get out of long-term commitments and rehab a franchise that needed a fresh outlook.
Things will likely change down the road, but at least one year later on all fronts, both sides have come out on top.