This proud franchise has risen from the ashes to lead the American League East standings as we head to the All-Star break. The roster isn't as talented as years past, but this year's Boston Red Sox team is highly competitive and awfully clutch when the game is on the line.
Coming into spring training, the organization was eager to put a woeful 2012 season behind them. The front office was embarrassed again by a lackluster performance from a high-priced roster that wasn't inspired by volatile manager Bobby Valentine.
His hiring seemed to be the logical move to bring discipline back to Boston. No one expected Bobby V to alienate everyone who was associated with the Red Sox franchise by season's end. This left no choice for the front office but to cut its losses and fire him ASAP.
Good executives react quickly to disappointing results, especially when expectations run high on a yearly basis. There's no room for the timid when operating a big-market franchise.
General manager Ben Cherington began the overhaul of the Red Sox roster with a waiver trade last August that removed a financial albatross from around their neck, as the Los Angeles Dodgers took $250 million of guaranteed contracts (first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford and pitcher Josh Beckett) off their hands.
This trade allowed the Red Sox to become more active in the free-agent market last offseason. Cherington stayed away from star names, like outfielder Josh Hamilton and pitcher Zack Greinke, and instead sought players who could excel under the spotlight. The highlight acquisition has been Mike Napoli, who's provided clutch hits all season long.
Next, Cherington secured the services of the manager he originally wanted to hire after replacing Theo Epstein in 2011. He acquired John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays via a trade to help rebuild the team's disappointing pitching staff.
Farrell has brought emotion and intensity back to the mound this season, even though fans still have reservations about the overall pitching depth within the organization.
The biggest reason for his hire is to fix the pitching mechanics of the team's two aces, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, as getting them back on track and keeping them healthy could be the single most important player acquisition made by the Red Sox this season.
Farrell understands the importance of having two studs atop your starting rotation. Serviceable starting pitchers will keep you in contention, but they will not win you a divisional title. Dominant pitching has been the biggest reason for the Sox renaissance this year.
It's not too early to say Boston is clearly over its nightmarish season from a year ago, but it's too soon to proclaim the team a World Series contender.
The batting lineup has provided solid production all throughout the order, and this has helped them return to form in the AL East.
Cherington has built a roster that has a strong core of players who can easily regain the swagger of past Sox teams from a decade ago.
The erosion of the Red Sox franchise is greatly overrated.
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