Only one team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball's bailout kings, could have rescued the Boston Red Sox from the abyss, where an unlikeable team saddled by bad contracts and bad attitudes was staring at only the beginning of an ugly decline. But it took an extraordinary set of events to save the Sox: the divorce and subsequent fall of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the regional sports network bidding war raging in Southern California, the honeymoon ownership of the Dodgers by Guggenheim Baseball, the nerve-rattling sweep at the hands of the rival Giants last week and especially the luck that Adrian Gonzalez would pass unclaimed by 16 teams through waivers, allowing the Dodgers to win the waiver claim.
Gonzalez was such the white whale for the Dodgers -- they had tried hard to obtain him throughout the season -- that they didn't blink when the Red Sox asked them to pick up their recycling bin, too -- the one with Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, owners of contracts thought to be immovable.
In the business of baseball you don't get out of bad contracts often. And when you do, you either compromise the talent you get back or you eat a ton of money. The Red Sox pulled off the trick of dumping contracts without having to do either, thanks to the Dodgers' giddy need for relevance and Gonzalez. They are spending money as if they hit the lottery -- with the payment to come with their new RSN deal that figures to be worth billions.
The Red Sox, who never wanted to hear former general manager Theo Epstein even speak the word "bridge," succeeded in being lousy and unlikeable enough to pull off the first retrenching of the John Henry ownership era. And the Dodgers, as clubs with money and new owners tend to do, cribbed from the very plan that helped put Boston into this mess, convinced it will work wonders for them. Somehow it made perfect sense for both teams: a perfect storm in Los Angeles, a perfect
It was one moment in time, the crosshairs of two mammoth franchises intersecting, which only goes to show how quickly the baseball world turns over these days. A year ago this week the Red Sox were a model franchise, owning the best record in the league, with Epstein and manager Terry Francona holding a firm grip, Gonzalez putting up MVP numbers and Beckett contending for the ERA crown. The Dodgers? They were in bankruptcy, with McCourt keeping the team operational only because of a loan from MLB.
Twelve months later they are transformed. Both teams are better off because of this deal. There are no guarantees how it turns out. The Red Sox will live with the flirty promise of prospects and the Dodgers with the snake oil pitch of "change of scenery" for underperforming veterans. But the deal at least provides a better plan -- a better identity -- on which to proceed than what was in place in both cases.
Both teams can be considered (for now) as winners from this deal. Here's the rest of the scorecard from one of the most impactful in-season deals ever: