Even at the time, the 2013 Red Sox felt like an all-too-perfect dream. Their swashbuckling run to the World Series made them one of the most likable Boston sports teams in recent memory. For a little while, the championship celebrations felt like they'd never end.
The club's trade of Shane Victorino on Monday served as a reminder of just how fleeting that 2013 campaign feels now. A central figure in one of the most dramatic moments that postseason, Victorino is, like most of his teammates during that championship run, no longer a member of the Red Sox.
None of this should take away from that 2013 season, of course. The Red Sox were, objectively, a very good baseball team. They led MLB in runs scored and wRC+. Their starters ranked fourth in the American League in ERA, and their bullpen had Koji Uehara, who posted one of the best reliever seasons of all time. The right combination of unheralded free-agent signings, bounce-back campaigns, team-wide depth and overperformance turned into a World Series title.
Still, that hasn't made the subsequent disintegration of that 2013 club any easier to watch. Less than two years later, just 10 members of that squad remain on Boston's 40-man roster. And with Mike Napoli the subject of numerous trade rumors, the Red Sox could soon deal yet another former hero of yesteryear elsewhere. And even if they don't, he's a free agent at season's end, and it's hard to imagine they'd re-sign him after his tough campaign.
Indeed, it's been a rapid fall for Boston and most of the players on that 2013 roster. When Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both departed via free agency the following offseason, everyone knew that changes were coming. Few could have predicted back-to-back last-place seasons and such a widespread exodus, however.
It turns out Ellsbury and Saltalamacchia were just the start. By last year's trade deadline, a punchless offense forced the Red Sox to become unexpected sellers, and within two weeks, three-fifths of the 2013 starting rotation were gone.
Age, it appeared, had finally caught up to Jake Peavy before Boston dealt the right-hander out of the American League to San Francisco (where he played an important role in the Giants' World Series title).
More surprisingly, the Red Sox traded away Jon Lester and John Lackey, both of whom had served as vital cogs the year prior. While Lester and Lackey continue to perform well, many members from the 2013 squad have seen their stock tumble.
With a 4.89 ERA in 2015, Peavy once again resembles the pitcher who struggled to strike anyone out in a Red Sox uniform a year ago. Ellsbury is getting paid, but he's hardly been the player the Yankees were expecting. Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, has bounced between Triple-A and the majors with the Diamondbacks after the Marlins released him earlier this season.
Other key performers from 2013 haven't fared much better. Felix Doubront, who started 27 games that season, is also stuck in limbo between the minors and majors, while Ryan Dempster has retired.
On the hitting side, former helmet punter and walk-off hero Jonny Gomes is currently batting below .200 for an uncompetitive Braves team. As for Stephen Drew, Yankees fans share the same type of distaste for him that Red Sox fans previously reserved for his older brother. Perhaps most surprisingly, former bench bat extraordinaire Mike Carp is currently unemployed.
Back in Boston, Daniel Nava has been unable to recapture any of the play that saw him serve as a useful role player in 2013. Over the past two seasons, Nava has shuttled back and forth between Triple-A, the Red Sox bench and the DL, all while hitting a combined .252/.332/.333 in 2014 and 2015.
Even David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, long the foundations of Boston's success, face uncertain futures. Ortiz turns 40 in November and is, despite his recent power surge, in the midst of decline. Pedroia, on the other hand, just can't seem to shake off those nagging injuries that have plagued him the past few years.
When viewed from this perspective, 2013 sure feels like a long time ago. Not only has the team largely been disbanded, but also many of the players who had so much success that season have seen their fortunes change dramatically. Baseball can be a humbling game, but few could have guessed how quickly things would unravel for that 2013 club.
Now, with yet another uncompetitive second half staring them in the face, Boston's future is anything but certain. Still, it remains important to remember that Ben Cherington's plan was always to rebuild with a longer-term view in mind. The 2013 World Series run surprised everyone, including the front office and team's owners. When you look to build lasting stability through a strong farm system, you'll often take plenty of lumps in the present, especially when you fall prey to such vast underperformance, as the Red Sox have this year.
Where that leaves Boston in the future remains an open question. The front office clearly needs to start making better decisions, but Cherington has also succeeded in building a farm system oozing with talent and a major league roster that still leaves room for optimism.
2013 shouldn't be forgotten or marginalized, and neither should the likes of Victorino and Napoli. Those players are a reminder of how fleeting success in MLB can be. For Cherington and the Red Sox, the challenge isn't to recapture that 2013 magic, but rather to build a team that achieves far more enduring success.