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Red Sox vs. Cardinals: What a difference a year can make

The Red Sox were on top of the world after defeating the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series. Now they're just a soft spot on St. Louis' schedule.

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Jared Wickerham

For the Cardinals, the Red Sox have to represent something of a bugbear by now.

Oh, sure, the previous generation (or, I suppose, the one before that) of Cardinals fans see things rather differently. 1946 and 1967 saw the Cardinals eek out a pair of 4-3 World Series wins over the Sox, keeping the drought alive and well into the next century. But in the last 10 years, the Cardinals have twice run into the Red Sox in the Fall Classic, and have two solitary game wins to show for it. You have to imagine there are 14 other teams they'd rather see come out of the American League when they take the National League pennant.

This year's Red Sox, though? You have to imagine that, should the Cardinals make the World Series, they'd replace whoever joins them there with the 2014 Red Sox in the blink of an eye. While the Cardinals are right in the thick of things, the same as ever, the Red Sox have fallen far in the months since their championship run.

The sad fact is that the Red Sox will be looking at this series as just another in a long series of tests for their young talent, looking to separate the wheat from the chaff headed into 2015. The Cardinals? They'll view this World Series rematch as an opportunity to take advantage of some weak competition and possibly overtake the Brewers at the top of the N.L. Central.

Come Wednesday, they'll do so against Joe Kelly, who authored one of their two wins in the World Series last year. Going forward, they'll do so with the help of John Lackey, who stood on the mound on October 30th to start the game that sealed their fate in that same World Series. The Red Sox are only too lucky to avoid the strange situation of having to face the man they traded not one week ago.

Baseball can be a strange and unpredictable game. Last year's champions are this year's chumps, selling their stars to their former challengers. The Red Sox are certainly in what might be considered an "ebb" right now, making what is usually a marquee matchup something much less. Still, there are small victories to be had. For instance: getting A.J. Pierzynski to strike out every single time he steps to the plate.

Yeah, that would be nice.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. You can join in now using this link and, if we're being honest, put your money on some Cardinals to have big games because that's probably more likely than the alternative.

Just not A.J. Pierzynski.

Never A.J. Pierzynski.