The Red Sox have made another round of roster cuts, and this time it's the big one: Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Humberto Quintero are heading to Triple-A, leaving Shane Victorino (/Daniel Nava/Allen Craig) and Sandy Leon as the winners in their respective "positional battles".
That's in quotation marks because, let's be honest, these were by-and-large forgone conclusions made to keep as much talent within the organization as possible. The reason Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, and Sandy Leon are all in Boston is because it would be difficult to store them in the minor leagues whether due to options, service time, or simple question of seniority.
With Castillo in the minors, Shane Victorino will get the start in right field on Opening Day and for the immediate future for the Red Sox. We've seen two Victorinos in his time with Boston--an All-Star in 2013 and a wreck in 2014. If it's the 2013 Victorino who shows up starting on April 6th, we'll be glad the Red Sox weren't so quick to give up. If he proves to be over the hill, unable to recover from injury, chances are he'll do so with enough speed that Castillo will be a quick call-up. It's a small investment of playing time for a potentially major payoff whether it comes on the trade market or simply on the scoreboard.
Jackie Bradley Jr. will face a harder road back since, unlike Castillo, there's nobody actually filling his role in Boston who can quickly prove to be valuable or not. Instead it's a combination of Daniel Nava and Allen Craig hoarding the backup roles, and each of them is going to be fighting for playing time as is. Nava's need is clear as a left-handed bench bat who can reach base with some consistency, while the Red Sox have hope that Craig can be a significant piece in their plans over the next few years. It will take more than a handful of at bats spread out over a month of pinch hitting appearances and the occasional start to convince them otherwise on either account, leaving an injury Bradley's best hope for a return.
As for Quintero, he's the first line of defense protecting not the Red Sox from injury, but Blake Swihart from an early call-up. The Sox will play it as safe as possible for now with their young catching prospect, hoping that in a few more months they'll be comfortable enough to give him the call.
Noticeably absent from the list of demotions: Matt Barnes. It's not exactly official right now, but he seems a lock to start the year in Boston's bullpen.