With all of the big, expensive names that were moved around in last week's blockbuster deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox, none were more important than Carlos Lee. His trade to the Miami Marlins set in motion the chain reaction that led to this trade that will reverberate for years.
The Dodgers needed a first baseman. James Loney did not have the power, average or on-base percentage that Los Angeles needed at the position. And the team went on a horrifying tailspin because of its lack of offense.
Matt Kemp was injured and, over a six-game period, the Dodgers were shut out five times. They scored a grand total of five runs during their seven-game losing streak between June 24th and June 30th. That included a three-game sweep in San Francisco, which is still haunting the Dodgers.
Jayson Stark of ESPN reported that the Dodgers would send a minor leaguer and absorb Lee's contract.
However, Lee had a no-trade clause and he weighed his options. Then, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, he turned down the trade and decided to stay in Houston.
Or maybe he just wanted to avoid Los Angeles.
As reported in USA Today, Carlos Lee did approve a deal to the Miami Marlins on July 4. The haul brought in third baseman Matt Dominguez, one of the best prospects in Miami's system.
Why he approved of Miami and not Los Angeles is unclear. What is clear was that his timing was not great. Just three weeks after the trade, the Marlins began dismantling.
Hanley Ramirez was sent packing to the Dodgers and a flurry of other deals made sure Lee had simply moved from one last-place team to another.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers still needed to solve their offense issues. After another sweep by the Giants, this time at home where the Dodgers scored a total of six runs in three games, they needed a big move.
And sensing desperation, the Red Sox offered a great first baseman and two horrific contracts to eat. The Dodgers made the deal for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. The Red Sox received some warm bodies, payroll flexibility and a gigantic reset button.
The Red Sox will go into the offseason with gigantic revenue streams and a lot of money to spend. Over the next few years, they can completely overhaul the look and feel of the franchise.
The Dodgers went all in and are hoping that the combination of Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez would be the 1-2 punch that makes them not only champions but also the team of Los Angeles. They will also face the reality of gigantic, unmovable contracts weighing down their payroll as new management ponders the pros and cons of acting like the Yankees and paying the payroll tax in order to win titles.
Two gigantic franchises had a seismic change in their personality and identity for years to come.
And that would never have happened if Carlos Lee had agreed to go to Los Angeles.