It's a bit strange to think that despite all the turmoil surrounding the Red Sox over the last year or so, their roster's actually pretty well set heading into spring training. Since I'm always a fan of looking to the past, thought it would be fun to run through the likely Opening Day lineup and see how everyone found their way here. We start with the longest name in baseball history...
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: Drafted by Atlanta in 2003, Salty saw brief action for the Braves before being packaged in one of the worst trades of the last decade. He was sent to Texas (along with Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus) for Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira. Feliz, Harrison, and Andrus are now key members of Texas's perennial contender. Teixeira is a Yankee. Salty spent three years in Texas getting varying amounts of coffee before winding up in Boston and being told he was going to be taking over for a franchise icon (no pressure, kid). He now spends his time hitting home runs, striking out, and reading Globe stories about his imminent trade to make room for Ryan Lavarnway.
Mike Napoli, 1B: Napoli was drafted by Anaheim (before they moved to Los Angeles of Anaheim, a nearby suburb) in 2000. As catchers do, he spent a good long while in the minors before getting a shot in 2006. Upon his arrival in the bigs, noted good manager and catching expert Mike Scioscia determined that Napoli was too good at hitting home runs to be a catcher. Napoli gained his freedom from this lunacy when he was traded to Toronto for the Vernon Wells Memorial Money Sinkhole. In a truly hilarious turn of events, the Jays flipped Napoli to Texas, where he spent the season clubbing everything in sight, most notably Anaheim's playoff hopes. Recalling that Napoli was the only member of the Angels in the past decade who'd been able to figure out that Fenway is easy to hit in, the Sox made a serious push for him this offseason. He now occupies first base, because while Scioscia was dumb to start Jeff Mathis over him, he wasn't entirely wrong about the D.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B: Pedroia was found in a wrecked spacecraft outside Smallville, Kansas, wrapped in a Red Sox jersey. He now plays second base at Fenway.
Stephen Drew, SS: Drew (whose middle name is Oris, about which I have no idea) comes from a baseball family. Like his brother J.D., Stephen turned down the draft offer of a Pennsylvania team (the Drews hold a grudge against Pennsylvania going back to a bar bet with John Dickinson), but was later drafted by Arizona. He played quite well out there, providing excellent power for a middle infielder, but after two injury-plagued seasons, was traded to Oakland. He signed this offseason with the Red Sox, partly to shore up the infield and partly to provide local writers with easy "he's more talkative/energetic than his brother" jokes.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B: Middlebrooks forced his way on to the team in 2012, putting up a truly obscene .333/.380/.677 line at Pawtucket while incumbent third baseman Kevin Youkilis was scuffling on the field and clashing with then-manager Bobby Valentine off of it. The rookie kept slugging once he got to the majors, hitting 15 home runs before a broken wrist ended his season. He now has a fun Twitter feed, a place in Southie, and a serious devotion to the Sox franchise. This means that I will buy his shirtsey in May, and therefore he will be traded in July to make room for Xander Bogaerts.
Shane Victorino, RF: Victorino was drafted by the Dodgers in 1999, grabbed by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft, returned to the Dodgers, and then snatched away by the Phillies in another Rule 5 draft. I would go deeper into that, but I don't fully understand the Rule 5 draft. He played productively in Philadelphia for a few years, and then wound up (surprise) back with the Dodgers again. Boston signed him to a three-year deal this offseason for the express purpose of bringing center-field speed to Fenway's spacious right field.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: Drafted by Boston in 2005 (a compensation pick from Anaheim when they signed Orlando Cabrera. Thanks, Orlando!), Ellsbury burst onto the scene in the 2007 playoffs, when he gained national prominence by stealing a base in the World Series and winning everyone in the country a free Taco Bell taco. Why we were happy about this I still don't fully understand. Anyway, he has since contributed solid defense, great baserunning, and a terrifying magnetism for fluke injuries. Adrian Beltre's head killed his 2010, he damn near won the MVP in 2011, and Reid Brignac wiped out his 2012. If that pattern holds, he'll go 30-30 again. Or explode on May 7th. Hard to say, really.
Jonny Gomes, LF: I'm going with Gomes here because the Sox keep publicly saying he's the starter, even though this is a bad idea. Back in 2001, when the world was young, and Tampa Bay was still be-Deviled and terrible, Gomes was snagged up in the 18th round. He spent six decent years there, then moved on to Cinncinati. He was traded to Washington in 2011, signed with Oakland last year, and now brings his particular brand of overt scrappiness to Boston. Several commentators have compared Gomes's personality to that of Kevin Millar. I leave y'all to decide how to feel about that.
David Ortiz, DH: A thing that occasionally strikes me as funny in political discourse is when means get in the way of ends. Parties desire a certain goal, but only if it can be achieved in one particular way. (Bending over backwards here to avoid partisanship, so I'm just going to bail right into baseball.) David Ortiz found himself in Boston because of this issue. Ortiz is a player with a particular, and generally desirable, skill set: he hits home runs and walks a ton. Neither of these things interested the Twins, and so they released him in 2003. Since that time, Ortiz has become one of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history.Given Boston's affinity for sluggers over the years, that's no mean feat. For an initial $1.25 million "what the hell, maybe he'll provide some bench power" investment, Boston received 343 home runs, ten years of a .962 OPS, and two World Series titles. Sorry, Twins.