Originally seen as the biggest rumor in recent memory, the blockbuster trade to send Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett to the LA Dodgers is all but confirmed according to a report published by Fox Sports.
"The Dodgers have agreed in principle with the Red Sox on a trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto, according to a major league source. Discussions between the clubs had reached the final stages Friday evening," courtesy of Jon P. Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports
While no money or players have changed hands yet, and while this potential blockbuster still awaits pending physicals, Crawford and Beckett waiving their no-trade clause—which both have yet to do—and other financial agreements, Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and Punto should be donning Dodger Blue before the weekend is over. In fact, the official announcement could be made public as soon as the Dodgers' Friday night game against the Miami Marlins is concluded.
Recently, the Red Sox seemed prepared to part with some of their better players in response to plans for rebuilding in the future. They find themselves sitting near the bottom of the AL East and essentially too far out of first to catch the rivaled New York Yankees. As a result, 2012 was as good a season as any to sell off the lucrative contracts plaguing this team.
On top of that, reports surfaced last week that some of the Red Sox players, Gonzalez included, recently expressed their concerns for the team and their disapproval of current manager Bobby Valentine.
According to a report from the LA Times, Gonzalez was one of a handful of players that scheduled a players only meeting with the Red Sox owners to lobby for a managerial change. In an article written by ESPN, it was even reported that Gonzalez was the one leading charge, responsible for the occurrence of the meeting in the first place. In total, it was reported 17 players took part, many of which it is claimed said they did not want to play for Valentine anymore.
Since that late July meeting, Dustin Pedroia who was reported to have been very vocal in his criticism of Valentine, has since distanced himself from the reports, even saying that claims about the team's request to get Valentine fired were in fact untrue.
"I don't think Bobby (Valentine) should be fired," Pedroia said Tuesday night after Boston's 7-1 loss to Baltimore. "We haven't played well. That's the bottom line. I'm not going to blame anything on Bobby. It's on the players. Last year wasn't on Tito (former manager Terry Francona). I know he took it hard. We were 99.7 percent in the playoffs last year, and we weren't in there. Anything can happen. Baseball's a crazy game." Courtesy of Jeff Seidel, ESPN Boston
Pedroia also went on to say in the same report, that he had a problem with Valentine earlier in the year but that the two talked and settled it "as men," adding that the two of them have a great relationship and that he would play for him, "any day of the week."
It was obvious that the Red Sox had no design on trading Pedroia. He is still an All-Star second baseman and one of the best in the game at his position. With thoughts of moving the franchise forward into a new era, Pedroia will likely take on the role David Wright currently has with the Mets. With this trade and when all is said and done, he and possibly David Ortiz could be the only recognizable players left on the team.
Unlike Ortiz and Pedroia, Gonzalez seemed to make himself tradeable after reports of the meeting surfaced. Unlike Pedroia, he did not deny the claims that he wanted Valentine fired. Rather he just confirmed that a meeting took place.
"They had a meeting with the players, they had a meeting with the coaches and they had a meeting with Bobby and it was to assess where we were as a team and as an organization and why we were where we were, and what our thoughts were, basically," Gonzalez told WEEI. Courtesy of Jeff Seidel, ESPN Boston
Although the team took great pride in acquiring Gonzalez and Crawford prior to the 2011 season, it could very well be that Gonzalez's attitude toward the manager was enough to make the organization think twice about how he fit into the future plans for the team.
In trading these top talents, the question really has to be considered: Did the tension surrounding the team and manager Bobby Valentine effectively push Gonzo, Crawford and Beckett out of Boston? Furthermore, did the Red Sox brass just make it clear that they will be sticking with Valentine for 2013 and beyond?
The Kevin Youkilis Situation
Probably one of the best pieces of evidence that the Red Sox look to go forward with Valentine was when they decided to trade fan favorite Kevin Youkilis.
Early in the season, Valentine distanced himself from Youkilis in a bad way by making comments questioning how into the game, both physically and emotionally, Youk was. According to a report from Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, Valentine said that for whatever reason, it just didn't seem that Youkilis was the same player in terms of his commitment to the game as he was in the past.
Youkilis obviously did not take kindly to these comments saying that he was confused more than anything and that he always plays the game as hard as he can.
Although numerous efforts were made to repair the relationship, it was clear Youk never liked Valentine. With the relationship strained, it was obvious that one of these men was going to be leaving Boston and that it was only a matter of time before that happened.
Shortly before the trade deadline it was announced Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox, effectively telling everyone in the baseball world that the Red Sox were sticking with Valentine and that they had made the decision to choose the manager over the player.
Once again with Gonzalez and this player's meeting, Valentine found himself at odds with some of his players and once again it seemed unlikely that they could co-exist in Boston. With support from GM Ben Cherington and chief owner John Henry, it seems all but certain that Valentine will at least finish out the season with the team.
Considering the fact that both Beckett and Crawford had already seemingly fallen out of favor with the team and considering that both didn't fit into the team's plan for the future, it isn't that surprising that the team would at least try to get something in return for the two former stars. Also, it makes sense that they would want to trade Gonzalez while his stock was still high.
Perhaps the real reason though comes down to the organization once again backing Valentine over the unhappy players. There is no proof to suggest this but looking at the circumstances of the trade and Gonzalez's role in the player's meeting, there is also nothing to deny that this could be the case.
Does this secure Valentine's job for 2013 and beyond?
Although both Henry and Cherington were quick not to speak about their decisions regarding next season, this trade may in fact speak for itself.
For the Red Sox and their rebuilding plans, everything about this trade makes sense. It is reported the only major leaguer they will acquire is 1B James Loney with the other players being all top prospects from the Dodgers farm system. Taking on Loney's contract is nothing compared to the money they will be saving by dumping the huge and costly salaries of Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez especially.
Do you think the recent tension with Valentine contributed to the decision to trade Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford?
Dumping these salaries and acquiring these prospects will put the Red Sox in a good position in the off season. It might be signaling the end of an era but at the same time it could also be representative of an attempt to recreate the mini-dynasty the team once had.
In making this trade, the Red Sox could have decided to axe Valentine as well but they didn't. Right now it all points to the fact that the team is committed to keeping him for 2013 and beyond.
What does this mean for the future of LA and Boston?
Regardless of whether Valentine is a partial or even sole reason for the trade, what we do know is that the LA Dodgers of 2012 are far from what they were in the past. It is hard to believe that a team that just last year needed to file for bankruptcy is now in a position to take on over $200 M of guaranteed salary.
It is also clear that they are intent on winning a World Series, not next year but now. Their line up next season could feature Crawford, Shane Victorino, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Gonzalez. Instantly, this turns the former laughing stock of the National League into an overnight dynasty and definitely World Series contender.
So as I said, regardless of the reason why the Red Sox were willing to make this trade, something certainly had to give. The players weren't happy, the fans certainly aren't happy and the organization in its entirety certainly had reasons to be concerned about their jobs.
Both teams are going to instantly be changed by this deal and the landscape of two divisions could also be changed for quite some time.
Was it a good trade for the Red Sox? Did they make the right decision to keep Valentine but dump the high profile players and their-breaking salaries?
Only time will tell. For the Dodgers however, perhaps even instantly, this move takes them from playoff hopeful to world series favorite.