The Red Sox need to revamp their bullpen. They need another starter -- whether that starter is an ace or not is up for debate, but the need for someone they can rely on is clear. They could also use a reliable outfielder -- starter, bench, or both -- and did we mention the bullpen? It needs revamping. Keep all of that in mind when reading Dave Dombrowki's quotes on what the Sox might need to do in order to fill those holes.
Dombrowski told reporters, when asked about making a big move to improve, that "At some point we're going to most likely do something that is painful. But if you're trying to get quality talent, you're going to have to do that."
Chances are good Dombrowski does not mean deal either Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts. And chances are nearly as good that he doesn't mean deal Eduardo Rodriguez, either: the Sox are trying to get more pitching they can rely on both now and in the future, and Rodriguez seems like one their best bet for a season above and beyond what should be expected from a 23-year-old. Blake Swihart is probably safe, too, considering Christian Vazquez might not be ready and anything that moves Sandy Leon closer to the majors will be avoided.
No, Dombrowski is likely referring to Boston's coveted prospect depth here. And he's right: talent costs, whether it's in money or prospects. The Red Sox have promoted a number of prospects in the past few years to fill holes: Bogaerts at short, Betts in center, Blake Swihart behind the plate, Rodriguez in the rotation, and there are also others such as Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley who have either secured roles or are on their way to doing so.
There are still some holes the current crop of prospects cannot fill, though, and when that occurs, their primary use is as a means of acquiring someone who can.
Henry Owens and Brian Johnson have promising futures, but they probably aren't cracking the 2016 rotation barring an injury. Moving one of them to help tend to a need makes sense. Manuel Margot is a quality outfield prospect, but he's just far enough from the majors, and there are enough outfielders available elsewhere, that it would make sense to deal him should one of Boston's other needs be met by doing so.
A package with one of the lefties and Margot and then some could make sense, too, depending on what the return is: if the Sox want a top-of-the-rotation arm and don't want to spend $150 million to $200 million and six or seven or eight years on them, then that pitcher is going to cost them a bunch of kids.
Sox can learn about trading kids from the Royals
The facet of the Royals that should be copied is their fearlessness in trading kids.
And that's okay! The Sox have a young core already on the major-league squad. They have up-and-coming prospects like Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi on the way in the next couple of years. If it takes dealing Margot or Owens or Rafael Devers or Michael Kopech or non-prospect (but still young) Jackie Bradley Jr. or whoever in order to make the team compete now, while the remnants of the previous core like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz are still producing, then that's what should be done.
The Royals pulled off a similar trick, and it landed them a World Series appearance in 2014 and a championship in 2015. The Royals don't have Boston's money, either, so the opportunity for sustained success with a combination of spending and youth is even greater for the Sox.
Maybe Dombrowski is referring to money: a $200 million deal for David Price could be very, very painful, either because of injury or a drop in effectiveness or any number of things that happen to pitchers regardless of how many zeroes are on their paychecks. It seems, though, that the use of "painful" is meant to brace fans for the kind of thing they would be annoyed by, and there is nothing Red Sox fans have held dearer to them over the last two losing seasons than the youth that would eventually transform the team back into a winner.
That youth is already doing so, though, and it can in other ways. Those prospects don't all need to be in Boston for them to contribute to the next great Sox team. Some can stay, some can go in order to bring in the missing pieces, and it will only seem painful until we have a complete picture of what the 2016 Red Sox are going to be.