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If you love something let it go

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Sometimes a fresh start is best for everyone.

MLB: Boston Red Sox-Workouts
Goodbye, sweet prince.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

It was a year ago this week the Mookie Betts trade was finalized; a year later, Baseball Prospectus 2021 is landing in bookstores with Betts, a Dodger in full, exulting as he rounds the bases before a home run trot. It was also about a year ago news of a virus in China had spread beyond its borders, and the course of human history was changed.

A full year later, the world is markedly different than it was at the time, but for their part, the Red Sox have been pretty consistent. If you take the Betts trade off Chaim Bloom’s resume, nothing the Sox have done is too crazy or too Tampa-like not to take. Bloom is remaking the team on the fly at the potential cost of trades the Red Sox don’t necessarily “win” but don’t lose too bad either.

The latest deal to fall into this category involves Andrew Benintendi, who is heading to Kansas City in a three-way deal that will net the Sox, at the least, Franchy Cordero, a prodigious swing-and-miss outfielder with an incredible name, and Josh Winckowksi, a pitcher whose name just screams White Sox but will instead ply his trade in red, along with three prospects who have yet to be named.

Matt called this return pretty light, and I’m not sure I agree. I think it’s fairly in line with Benintendi’s increasingly poor performance, especially because, for whatever reason, the Sox were determined to trade him, the only one of the Betts/Benintendi/Jackie Bradley Jr. trio still on their rookie contract. This wasn’t a salary dump. This was one of the last steps in the the elongated reset, and the one that makes the most sense.

★ ★ ★

It’s kinda funny that Benintendi was traded the week that Major League Baseball was reportedly deadening the ball back into its less projectile form, so that said ball generally will be hit into the field of play rather than over it. This is ostensibly great news for Beni, the bad-ball hitter who never saw a meatball he couldn’t watch right into the catcher’s glove.

If I’m not overly sad about the deal it’s because I’ve come to find watching Benintendi absolutely maddening. This is perhaps unduly influenced by a handful of terrible 2020 at-bats, but the roots go back to 2018 and even before. Benintendi is not up there looking for a homer on every pitch. He’s playing a guessing game at which his skill is declining, or was, beyond the point of sustainability. Something had to give, and now it has.

This is a win-win, as far as I can tell. I’m still a Benintendi fan and do, despite what I wrote above, like watching him play speed chess against the pitcher when he’s on his game. He still has the potential to be a really neat player and has the pedigree to get as many chances as possible. It’s the pedigree that makes me happy the Sox dealt him; no longer anchored to his draft spot, perhaps it’s best for everyone if he’s anchored to a less weighty value proposition like, say, being traded for Franchy Cordero.

Thats a considerably lower ceiling than “Number 1 prospect in baseball,” but it’s far more realistic. The bloom is off the rose with Beni, and a fresh start—for him, for the Red Sox, for us—is just what the doctor ordered. This is not a betrayal of Sox fans like the Betts trade or a reminder of the cruelties of time like Bradley’s limbo. This is what happens when functional organizations make good by their people. The best thing the Sox could have done with Beni, their former first round pick, was to let him go. That’s what you do when you really love something, they say. I’m not doe-eyed enough to say the Sox did this for love, but the effect, happily for once, is the same.