There used to be a time when the Yankees made a move, the Red Sox made a move. Or vica versa. It was about as obvious as an offseason cleansing of Jason Giambi's golden thong. Neither team could bat an eyelash without knowing that the other would follow suit quite promptly.
Why blame them, though? The rivals had to keep up with each other. Neither could afford to lose ground in the precious American League East. For years, it was the Yankees' territory but the Red Sox always knocked on the door. Then, after the first World Series championship by the Boston faithful, the Yankees became fell off their golden ladder and they too had to make any and every move possible.
But now -- in 2008 -- the atmosphere is different. The Yankees just traded for Nick Swisher yesterday. In response, the Boston Red Sox did ...
It's not because of the importance of Swisher, though. Swisher, by all means, is a pretty good baseball player. Any team that acquires him should only get better. That is contrary to someone like, say, Victor Zambrano (that one hurts, doesn't it Mets fans?).
The Red Sox did nothing and didn't have to do anything because of the current state of the Yankees. The New York Yankees didn't even win 90 games this year. They haven't done that since 2000 -- a year in which they still won the AL East. The Red Sox on the other hand actually made the playoffs and forced the ALCS into a seventh game.
The bottom line is this: the Yankees -- at their current state -- are not a threat. That is why this offseason is going to be much different than the ones we have always known.
Why should the Sox feel the need to stay move-for-move with a team that really wasn't a concern in 2008? Yeah, the Yankees made a run at times but they still aren't the team they used to be. Even if they make one very significant pickup this offseason, I don't think Theo Epstein will be off his rocker trying to make a deal.
Besides, doesn't it make more sense to compete with that team that actually beat us when it mattered? Yup, those pesky Rays. They have never been a team to spend a lot of money but that won't stop them from making a couple moves this offseason.
Let's just remember, too, that I said "at their current state." If the Yankees go out and grab CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Captain Planet, then the Red Sox's course of action might take a slight turn. But history has also shown us that Theo does a pretty good job of not overreacting. He's made some bad moves just like any general manager has ever done, but he knows not to make a move just for the sake of making a move.
So rest easy, Red Sox Nation. When the Yankees grab a player like Sabathia (which, odds are, is going to happen), we don't need to set the city on fire. Instead, let's just sit back and remember that it's a different game now and the Red Sox and Yankees might just be in two different leagues.