In late 2005, the Red Sox had a decision to make.
The club was in a position to add Josh Beckett to their pitching rotation via a trade with the Florida Marlins.
However, if they were to acquire Beckett and give the rotation a one-two punch they hadn't had since their World Series run in 2004, they would need to take Mike Lowell's contract off of Florida's books.
At that time, Lowell was coming off the worst season of his career: .236 batting average, .298 on-base percentage, eight home runs, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored.
These were the lowest numbers that Lowell had put up since becoming a regular starter for the Fish.
Despite Lowell's numbers, the Red Sox pulled the trigger on the deal, sending Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, and two other minor leaguers to South Florida for Lowell, Beckett, and Guillermo Mota.
Going into 2006, the Boston media filled the sports pages and talk radio airwaves with Lowell speculation. Could he return to form? Was he injured in '05? Was he a product of the steroid era? Will a change of scenery help? Is he too old? Are the Sox really paying $9 million for this guy?
Following the 2007 season, re-signing Lowell became a top priority for the Red Sox front-office. Lowell took a home town discount, signing a deal that will keep him in a Red Sox uniform through 2010 when he will be 36 years old.
What happened in two seasons that caused the change in opinion about the third baseman?
2007 was a career year for Lowell. He led the Red Sox in RBI, and finished second to slugger David Ortiz in home runs and slugging percentage. He was the Red Sox regular season MVP, and won the World Series MVP award.
Lowell has clearly returned to form following his arrival in Boston.
He has batted in the fifth or sixth slot in the Red Sox lineup, which puts him behind David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. This happenstance has given Lowell the chance to see hittable pitches and the veteran has taken full of advantage of it.
In two years in Boston, Lowell has driven in 200 runs and scored 154 times. Lowell's 84 doubles over that span rank amongst the top in the American League.
Lowell also has a large, green target in left field for 81 games a year. The Green Monster has turned what would be fly ball outs in Florida into singles and doubles.
Perhaps a change of scenery was what Mike Lowell needed to get back to his old self. The Red Sox certainly believed so.
Although there are few certainties in baseball, Lowell will have three more years in a Red Sox uniform to continue to put up large numbers and hopefully lead the team to more championships. One thing, though, is certain:
Lowell no longer has anything to prove.
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