The Blue Jays changed the landscape of the AL East with their blockbuster trade with Miami. But that should make no difference when it comes to Boston's offseason plans.
General managers say a lot of things, and often enough they don't mean them. Working in the competitive environment they do with millions of dollars in the balance, misdirection and subterfuge are part of the daily routine. Anyone who has read (or now seen) Moneyball will likely remember how Billy Beane worked his way to a deal for Ricardo Rincon, playing the Giants and Mets and Indians off one another in a web that was impressively intricate for having been formed in such a short period of time. But that's just what GMs do when a deal goes down.
So, if you're not inclined to believe Ben Cherington when he says the Red Sox aren't going to change their plans thanks to the Blue Jays' blockbuster with Miami, then you're certainly justified in that. But for my money, I'm guessing Cherington actually means it this time around, because if the Red Sox were taking a smart approach to the offseason, then the Jays' move shouldn't make a big difference.
That's not to say the move hasn't made a big difference for the Jays--it has--just that Boston's plans aren't the type to be changed by it. Whenever something like this happens, teams have to re-evaluate when they plan to contend, what the window is for this new team that's made a strong push, what that window means for their own ability to compete. Thanks to the trade, the Blue Jays have moved their window up to now. As Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista get older, the Jays could have a difficult time keeping up. But for now, especially these next couple of years, they've got a real shot at making something happen, even if there are no guarantees.
So then the Sox should maybe just give up on these next two years between the new-look Jays and the three AL East teams which competed for a playoff berth in 2012, right? Not at all. After all, the mission statement of the Red Sox right now is to succeed without locking themselves into long-term deals that could hurt them when their new wave of youth (Barnes, Bradley, Bogaerts, et al.) make the jump around 2014-2015. It's not a matter, then, of saying that they're not interested in competing now, or that their window is in three years instead of one or two.
Instead, it's a matter of prioritization. No, the Sox will not go all-out for 2013. They have set some not terribly specific but fairly strong boundaries on who they spend their money on, likely locking out the possibility of picking up a top-line free agent like Zack Greinke. That was the plan before the Blue Jays made their move, and unless the Sox are interested in throwing away any real chance to compete right now and take gambles on finding some interesting players for the sake of a draft pick (not really an option for a city like Boston), it should be their strategy after. The AL East is a tough division, but every team in it has some big flaws. If the Sox can make use of their resources within their self-set restrictions, there's no reason they can't make themselves players too.