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At A Crossroads, The Red Sox Just Stood There

Boston Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom walks past a photo of the 2007 Red Sox after they won the World Series.
Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox are in an odd place. Although they hold a 57-50 record, they currently have about a 30 percent chance to make the postseason. This can be attributed to an extraordinarily competitive AL East, in which all five teams hold a winning record yet not all of those teams can make the playoffs. Sometimes the standings just play out that way, while every team in another division openly disrespects the concept of effort.

So what was the move for the Red Sox at yesterday's trade deadline? Does a team like that bring in reinforcements for a postseason push or ship out its valuable players on expiring contracts? For Chaim Bloom, the answer was neither.

The team's Chief Baseball Officer—still a ridiculous title—could have added some pitching or traded away players in their walk years to stock up for the near future. Instead, the only move the Red Sox made on Tuesday was exchanging a relief pitcher for infielder Luis Urías, who was immediately optioned to Triple-A. Encouraging stuff.

Bloom, who held a presser after the deadline passed, said that the front office's lack of activity was due to acute awareness of what the team is this season and its aspirations for the future. Via Chad Jennings of The Athletic:

“I think we were on the phone near constantly today and through a lot of yesterday, just looking at all sorts of possibilities,” Bloom said. “Just trying as much as we could to stay true to everything I’ve talked about (in the past). We really like what we’re building. You’ve seen it now. It’s not something that we’re asking people to close their eyes and dream on. You’re seeing it more and more each night on the field, the core we’re building, what we’re building towards.

“So, understanding that we’re underdogs this year, right now, where we are in the playoff odds, we just tried to stay true to that.”

The Red Sox have not been underdogs in decades. Many people have watched them spend lots of money and win multiple titles. The current manager won the most recent World Series title, in 2018; he was also a player for the 2007 championship. They reached the ALCS in 2021. If they are underdogs in the playoff odds this year, that's because Bloom has modeled the third-most valuable baseball team that way. The reason he took over the Red Sox in the fall of 2019 was to cut costs, as evidenced by the trade of Mookie Betts and the lowballing of Xander Bogaerts. Boston's current total payroll is about $180 million, 13th in the majors. Twenty percent of that can be attributed to shortstop Trevor Story and starting pitcher Chris Sale, both on the injured list but due to return.

It's understandable if Bloom believes there was no trade worth making. You can define something of a developing core to this team: It's visible in the hearty contracts of Rafael Devers and Masataka Yoshida, and pre-arbitration players like Triston Casas and Brayan Bello. The team's big needs could be filled when Story and Sale are healthy. But if that's true, if the Red Sox front office is building for the future, why aren't they offering some of the less-vital players as rentals, like every other baseball team would do in that position? Are Adam Duvall and James Paxton really part of the long-term?

Perhaps it's all about self-preservation. Bloom wouldn't have a hard time making the case for passing on Justin Verlander or Aaron Civale, due to the premium they cost at the deadline. But if the Red Sox did trade away valuable role players, the team would be more likely to take itself out of wild-card contention, possibly letting the Yankees pass them in the division standings. It'd be humiliating; fans would be mad. Bloom, in his third year with Boston, would have risked getting hopes up if he bought at the deadline, and that'd be no good. This team has been designed to generate apathy.

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