Has Ben gained himself a much-needed clean slate? (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
As you'll have heard by now, the Red Sox and Dodgers are on the verge of completing an absolute blockbuster that would send Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles in exchange for Ivan DeJesus, Jerry Sands, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and James Loney.
The deal is not yet done, and their are still no-trade clauses to be waived and a few financial details to be worked out, but by all accounts this is going to happen, probably tomorrow.
This is perhaps the most monumental trade made by the Red Sox since Babe Ruth made his way to New York nearly a century ago. It's bigger than Manny, bigger than Nomar. It completely changes the franchise.
While there are plenty of players coming to Boston, and a few of them are quite interesting, the main thrust of this deal is that the Red Sox will get to shed Carl Crawford's frightening contract in exchange for sending Adrian Gonzalez' more reasonable deal to the Dodgers. Beckett is a nice bonus for the Red Sox, but the real meat of it lies in the two $100 million contracts headed their way.
Straight-up, this seems like a pretty worthwhile deal. Adrian Gonzalez is good, and his deal is reasonable given recent 1B deals, but the fact of the matter is that he's only worth so much more than his contract. Crawford, meanwhile, appears to be worth quite a bit less. To make this come away as a positive, all you have to do is say that the Red Sox are getting less over the value of Gonzalez' deal than they are losing on Crawford's deal.
Of course, the Sox will end up shipping some money to the Dodgers as well, but unless that proves to be a truly massive amount, it should largely be counteracted by saving some $18 million on Josh Beckett, including the last month of 2012.
The only way this ends up being really questionable for me, then, is if the Sox end up ponying up some $50 million over the next five years. I expect it will be closer to half of that at most, personally.
Keep in mind, too, that these are the last five years of both players' deals, with two should-have-been-prime years cut out.
The gravy, then, are the prospects, who form a pretty decent haul if the names are all right. Jerry Sands has produced at every level of the minor leagues, and if his bat can translate to the major leagues, could be very productive in left field or at first base. With big bats costing increasingly ridiculous amounts of money, having a strong-if-not-insane cost-controlled bat there could be very helpful. Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster are both very interesting arms, with the former sneaking into Baseball America's top-100 list in 2011 before being graduated to the majors and undergoing Tommy John, and Webster making his way in at #95 for 2012.
What this really means, however, is freedom. Theo Epstein left us a team crippled by big contracts, to the point where Ben Cherington was forced into some convoluted maneuvers over the offseason just to fill out the 25-man roster with dice rolls. No, he didn't do the best job of it, but it was a pretty awful situation to be put in.
The sad thing was that, with major moves needed, the Sox weren't really going to be out from under it for a while. Gonzo and Crawford handicapped the team, especially with a crop of young players slowly but surely running towards the ends of their initial long-term contracts.
Now the team gets a chance to do things right. To embrace the strategy that earned them World Series rings in 2004 and 2007. No, 2013 will likely not be a landmark year for the team. The free agent crop isn't fantastic, and if they're going to avoid old pitfalls then it's not the best one to spend in. But should this deal go through, then they'll have given themselves the ability to make the smart deals when they present themselves, and hopefully to rebuild towards the goal of becoming perennial contenders once again much sooner than the 2017 date that would mark the end of the Crawford and Gonzalez deals.
They've got financial flexibility, an already-strong system enjoying a sudden influx of talent, a team getting younger and hopefully in the future more well-rounded. Unless the money involved ends up offsetting a significant portion of Crawford's deal, this is a bold move that, in my mind, has set the Sox back on the right track and back to their roots for the first time in a while.