Philadelphia, PA – Boston general manager Ben Cherington may not have been able to choose the manager he wanted this offseason, but there is now no question who is in charge of the Red Sox.
In case you were living under a rock on Saturday, or just totally wrapped up in NFL preseason football, the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers completed the most significant waiver-wire trade in baseball history.
Boston sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, right- hander Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto along with some cash to Los Angeles for first baseman James Loney and two prospects -- pitcher Allen Webster and infielder Ivan De Jesus -- along with two players to be named later.
It's not often that a 38-year-old GM's legacy is defined five months into his initial season, but that is certainly the case now with Cherington, who gets a chance to build this Red Sox team any way he sees fit after taking a wrecking ball to the team his predecessor, Theo Epstein, built.
And to boot, he has a ton of money to do so.
"We recognize that we are not who we want to be right now," Cherington said on Saturday. "We felt like in order to be the team that we want to be on the field, we needed to make more than cosmetic changes."
In one fell swoop, the Red Sox rid themselves of close to $275 million. Gonzalez was slated to earn $133 million over the next six years, while Crawford is only in the second year of a 7-year, $142 million contract. Beckett is owed $31.5 million over the next two seasons.
It was an absolute no-brainer for the Red Sox, especially considering they only had to send $11 million the other way in the deal. Basically, they can spend like an expansion franchise this coming winter.
"The key is that we are absolutely committed to building the best team we can in 2013 and beyond and we're going to do that in the most disciplined way possible," Cherington said. "When we've been at our best we've made good decisions, disciplined decisions (and found) value, whether it's in the free agent market or trade market."
It was no secret that Cherington was not a fan of hiring Bobby Valentine this past winter. That was a move made specifically by team president Larry Lucchino. But give Cherington credit. When players spoke of their dislike for Valentine, Cherington has seemingly gone out of his way to accommodate his manager.
Kevin Youkilis was unhappy. He's gone. Beckett has been a pain in the rear for a while now. He's gone. Kelly Shoppach and Gonzalez were part of the now infamous text-gate fiasco. They are gone.
The odds were probably 70/30 that Valentine would also be gone after what has been just a disastrous first season, but maybe Cherington will give him another chance here with a new group. A new core.
Or Cherington can just further wield his power, fire the manager he never wanted in the first place and really put his stamp on the team.
"The bottom line is we haven't won enough games," Cherington added. "That goes back to last September. We just haven't performed on the field. This is not about the four players we gave up, anything they did particularly wrong. We just haven't performed as a team."
And by the way, how long ago does it seem that we were discussing the financial woes of the Dodgers? Last year it looked as if the team was going broke. The new ownership group led in part by former basketball superstar Magic Johnson has once again made it clear that they are in fact going for broke this year.
"We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league, and we understood that before we bought the team," Johnson said.
This blockbuster comes on the heels of the team locking up stars Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to long term deals, while also acquiring Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton.
"We continue to do everything in our power to strengthen our team for the stretch drive in an effort to reach the postseason," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti in a statement issued by his club. "This trade today exemplifies ownership's commitment to making the team as good as possible not only for 2012, but for many seasons to come."
And while the money makes it seem so, this trade was not just a salary dump. As Colletti said, this deal has as much to do with next season and beyond for the Dodgers as it does this year, as they try to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Gonzalez has already started to pay dividends with a home run in his first at- bat Saturday, and Beckett now becomes an integral part of this Dodgers rotation with Chad Billingsley shelved with an elbow injury.
And just a hunch here, but Beckett could become the star of this deal. The fiery right-hander always seems to pitch better with a chip on his shoulder. You think he's happy with what his legacy in Boston is? Plus, he's regarded as the best postseason pitcher in this generation. It will be nice to see him pitching big games again in October.
And mark my words, the Dodgers will be playing in October.
Crawford, of course, is out for the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he'll be back next season. By the way can you tell me a better outfield in recent memory than Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier?
This is one of those rare deals where both teams benefit.
Cherington, though, comes away as a clear winner, as the Red Sox are officially his team. Now let's see what he does with them.