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Red Sox "more willing" to trade top prospects for an ace

The Red Sox need to find a front-line arm this season. To that end, they'll apparently be more willing to trade top prospects than in seasons past.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are apparently "more willing" to trade top prospects than in recent years if the return is the ace they need at the top of the rotation, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. For all that, though, they've apparently still decided that certain names are off limits, including Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, and Anderson Espinoza.

That, in itself, is very interesting, since it's our first look at who Dave Dombrowski really values in the minor leagues. For those willing to do just a little work with the process of elimination, though, it also leaves a pretty clear picture of who the Red Sox are looking to trade, depending on your definition of who is and is not a "top prospect." No matter what, Rafael Devers is in that group. Manuel Margot is a slightly less certain candidate for the "top" designation, but he's likely also in the mix.

But there's also the other side of things. Presumably Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are not included as prospects anymore. But what about Jackie Bradley Jr.? Eduardo Rodriguez? Blake Swihart? Henry Owens? While graduation day has come and gone for all four, it doesn't take much bending to include any of them. That being said, Blake Swihart is pretty much the starting catcher, Jackie Bradley Jr. penciled in (by fans and Dombrowski alike) as a starting outfielder, and Eduardo Rodriguez already one of the best starting pitchers the team has to offer. Maybe they trade Bradley if someone puts an exceptionally high value on him after the second half of 2015 with an eye towards getting another outfielder in free agency, but even that scenario seems a bit unlikely. Of the four, Owens is definitely the most likely to find his way into a deal this winter.

So that pretty much leads us to the question: does anyone want some combination of Rafael Devers, Manuel Margot, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and maybe a couple of lesser names for an ace? It's something we can only guess at, though there are some substantialpackage all things considered. Of course, that's not the only route open to the Red Sox. They could just hit up a free agent market filled with big names, but given their need to improve the bullpen, relatively limited room in the payroll, and the difficulty of finding economical trades for relievers, that may prove unfeasible.

Then again, the same thing may prove true about going in search of that huge trade with the best-of-the-best off the table. There's a reason the Red Sox don't want to trade Moncada, Benintendi, and Espinoza. And it's the same reason most other teams would be pushing for them. There are few talents the Red Sox couldn't swing a trade for if it were completely open season, but with these restrictions, they'll have to work to find the right deal.