With Ryan Sweeney's opt-out deadline upon them, the Red Sox have decided not to purchase the outfielder's contract, allowing him to go back into free agency just three days before the beginning of the 2013 season. This effectively guarantees Jackie Bradley Jr. a roster spot.
It's a decision which can't be fully judged just yet. While many point out that Bradley would need to stay in the minors for just 11 days to secure another full year of team control, this is only an issue if the Red Sox don't send him down later in the year. The team has a need in the immediate future thanks to David Ortiz's injury. There is no guarantee they will have said need come May 1st. So long as they manage to find about a month to send him down during the season, then nothing will have been lost.
On the other hand, if they do not, it will be a pretty grave mistake. For a team that's rededicated itself in the last year to a sustainable system of player development, team control can't be tossed away like so much dross. Especially not for a player like Bradley who looks more special by the day.
Of course, we also need to remember that spring training is just spring training. History is filled with players who dominate March but can't cut it in April. We know that Jackie Bradley is quite the player. He didn't come out of nowhere in spring--he was already a fantastic prospect, and just arrived on the scene a bit earlier than expected. Still, it's entirely possible he's not as ready as he seems, and struggles out of the gate. He seems like the type of player who would deal well with such adversity, but only time and experience can tell that tale.
For now there's no real use worrying about this sort of thing, though. For now, there's a very exciting young outfielder who's about to make his major league debut with the 2013 Red Sox. The future is here.