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A year later, Red Sox-Dodgers blockbuster looks like a quintessential win-win deal

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 23, 2013 08:25 AM

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In terms of talent, we're a long way from reaching a verdict on what the Red Sox got from the Dodgers in last August's blockbuster.

Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster are pitchers of promise and some Triple A accomplishment. We also know that "pitching prospect" is essentially an oxymoron given all that can go wrong along the way, and both of these kids have command and/or control issues to work out before they're contributing consistently in the major leagues.

De La Rosa and Webster are talented. But to forecast their future right now would be to guess with overconfidence.

It's too soon to draw conclusions on the players -- where have you gone, Ivan DeJesus Jr.? -- the Red Sox received in return from the Dodgers during their seismic swap last Aug. 25.

But we can come to some unassailable conclusions regarding what else they received in the trade, which we're revisiting now with the Sox and Dodgers due to begin a three-game series Thursday night.

Start with the most obvious -- the get-out-of-self-inflicted-payroll-hell card. The Red Sox saved $262.5 million in the deal -- including roughly $40 million alone this year on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, who went to Los Angeles along with Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.

That allowed Ben Cherington the room to acquire several accomplished, respected veterans this offseason who gave the roster the middle class of talent it lacked a season ago -- Koji Uehara, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, and so on.

The Sox aren't as star-studded as we'd come to expect, but at 75-54 and in first place in the American League East, they're better.

They're also much more likable. The trade and the moves that followed went a long way toward restoring the franchise's pride.

The Red Sox, in the aftermath of their September 2011 collapse, were a joyless bunch last year. That wasn't all due to the players who eventually ended up in Dodger Blue; manager Bobby Valentine was inept, and the Sox were crushed by injuries. But change was necessary.

It's just amazing, a year later, to believe it happened in one fell swoop. The trade gave them a fresh start in every way.

The funny thing -- and one that seemed unfathomable last year and even early in this one, when the Dodgers floundered -- is that the deal has worked out on the other coast as well. The Dodgers have won 45 of 55 games, one of the most extraordinary stretches in baseball history.

While Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Greinke have led the charge to dominance, Gonzalez has been right there as a significant contributor, hitting .299 with a team-high 16 homers and 78 RBIs. He's the fundamental reason the Dodgers made the trade, the reason they were willing to take on the salaries and risks of Crawford and Beckett.

His power isn't what it was in San Diego or during his first-half season in Boston, when he had a 1.006 OPS, 17 homers and 77 RBIs in 89 games in 2011. But at 75-52, the Dodgers have to be happy with just about everything, and Gonzalez has fulfilled the most basic expectations.

adrianbeltrefinn824.jpgGonzalez: In 282 games with the Red Sox, he hit 42 homers, drove in 203 runs, and put up a .321/.382/.513 slash line. He was very good, especially in the first half of that first season, and I'll admit, I was a bit disappointed to see him go; hopes were so high, and briefly, he fulfilled them. But now? I'm glad he's a Dodger. He was part of the culture of lethargy and excuse-making -- one longtime beat writer told me he never dealt with a more condescending player. If we can hop in the Revisionist History Machine for a moment, don't you wish they could have convinced Adrian Beltre to stick around awhile rather than moving quickly to trade for Gonzalez? Sure you do.

Carl Crawford: He put up with some unnecessary and even cruel nonsense while he was here. But at some point, he's going to admit that he was pretty lousy on the rare occasions when he wasn't hurt, isn't he? He's been just OK for the Dodgers, with a .288 average, 11 steals, and a 40-game absence due to injury.

Nick Punto: An ESPN story noted this morning that he's "led the team in hustle since Opening Day.'' And the gritty, gutty white guy narrative lives on.

Josh Beckett: During the 2007 postseason, Beckett won all four of his starts. He pitched 30 innings, allowing four earned runs and 19 hits. He struck out 35 and walked one. He was as important as any player in securing that second World Series title in four years -- probably more important than any player. That was just six years ago, and so I ask: Has any player in Boston sports lore done more to damage a good reputation in such a short period of time?

The answer is a resounding no as far as I can tell, but feel free to hold off on your official answer until October. How about we revisit it again when, say, the Red Sox are back in the World Series for the first time since Beckett's glory days, facing the team he went 0-5 for this season? Sounds like a plan to me.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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