They gutted the roster. They changed managers. They made a series of offseason signings that were bewildering at the time but ended up being strokes of pure genius. And they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a World Series that was as bizarre and entertaining as they get.
With a 6-1 clinching victory Wednesday night, they are your 2013 world champions—the Boston Red Sox.
Here, we'll briefly relive a season that saw the Red Sox go from worst to first in the American League East and used timely hitting and surprising pitching performances to win a World Series title. Fear the beards, indeed.
After falling to 59-66 by August last season, 13.5 games out in the American League East, general manager Ben Cherington saw an opportunity to shed some huge salaries and rebuild over the winter.
He took it, trading Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for James Loney and four prospects (Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Ivan De Jesus and Jerry Sands). The move cleared $264.69 million in guaranteed money over the durations of the contracts for the Sox.
That led to a savvy set of moves in the offseason.
The Red Sox turned the money they freed up in the trade with the Dodgers into seven players at a total cost of $112 million: Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara and David Ross, while signing David Ortiz to a contract extension too.
The team also traded for closer Joel Hanrahan.
At the time, it seemed a curious "rebuild" for the Red Sox, but only Victorino was signed to anything longer than a two-year deal, spreading the payroll to bring in a slew of players on low-risk deals. Obviously, the move worked out quite well, as the signings helped to form the core of a championship club.
The team also hired manager John Farrell last October after a disastrous 2012 campaign under Bobby Valentine. Clearly, the change in management was just what the doctor ordered.
The Sox started with a bang, winning 20 of their first 28 games. But in the loaded American League East, Boston was just 2.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees and 3.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles despite their blistering start.
While New York eventually fell out of the postseason chase (and Tampa Bay eventually joined), the Red Sox remained steadily atop the standings.
On Monday, July 29, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Red Sox and took over first place in the AL East, prompting a brief war of words on Twitter that became quite entertaining very quickly.
The Rays fired the first shots:
The Red Sox responded and went right for the jugular:
Don't worry @raysbaseball we look forward to seeing you in Tampa in September for our home games at the Trop.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) July 30, 2013
The next day, the Sox traded for Jake Peavy, giving up talented shortstop Jose Iglesias in the process. Peavy went 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 45 strikeouts in 10 starts for the Sox down the stretch.
On Sept. 20, the Red Sox clinched a playoff berth. One day later, they clinched the AL East crown after beating the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3.
It was the team's first postseason berth since 2009 and its first AL East title since 2007. The Sox became just the second team to go from worst to first in their division since 1994.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 series lead after destroying Rays pitching in the first two games, outscoring Tampa Bay by a 19-6 margin.
The Sox nearly swept the series, but backup catcher Jose Lobaton hit a walk-off, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Koji Uehara, who'd emerged as a standout closer, to win Game 3 and extend the series.
But Boston recovered from that demoralizing loss, winning Game 4 by a 3-1 score despite Rays manager Joe Maddon using a record nine pitchers to try to keep his team alive.
Behind studs like Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, the Detroit Tigers had arguably the best rotation in all of baseball this season. But it was the Red Sox pitching that was the story in a 4-2 ALCS win for Boston.
Detroit took Game 1 after Sanchez and four relievers gave up just one hit and struck out 17 Red Sox hitters, winning 1-0.
Detroit seemed bound to win Game 2 as well, leading 5-1 in the eighth inning. But Mr. Clutch himself, David Ortiz, hit an eighth-inning grand slam to tie things up before Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a single through a drawn-in infield in the ninth to give the Sox a crucial 6-5 win.
The Sox again won Game 3, with Lackey surprisingly outdueling Justin Verlander in a 1-0 win away at Comerica Park. Detroit responded with a 7-3 victory in Game 4 to tie things up, but the Sox took over from there.
In Game 5, the Red Sox were able to score four runs on Sanchez early and held on, winning 4-3. And Shane Victorino was the hero in Game 6, erasing a 2-1 deficit with a seventh-inning grand slam—yes, another grand slam—that was the difference in a 5-2 victory for the Sox, sending them to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
A correctly overturned call in Game 1 that kept the bases loaded with one out, helping the Red Sox register three runs in the inning.
The obstruction call on Will Middlebrooks in Game 3 that resulted in Allen Craig scoring the game-winning run for the Cardinals, the first time a World Series has ever ended in such a fashion.
Jonny Gomes hitting a three-run homer that was ultimately the game-winner in Game 4 after Shane Victorino was a late scratch. And that game ultimately ending with Uehara picking off Kolten Wong at first base for the final out, another first in the World Series.
Jon Lester's lights-out performance to win Game 5 wasn't matched by John Lackey in the Red Sox's decisive Game 6 victory, but the right-hander did more than enough to stymie the Cardinals while Victorino drove in four huge runs.
And let's not forget David Ortiz, who dominated throughout by going 11-for-16 with eight walks, two home runs and six RBI on the way to a World Series MVP trophy.
You can bet the Red Sox fans will never, ever forget this World Series or the pitching staff's scoreless games. Blank games win. Frankly, it's been one of the most unforgettable matchups we've seen in the Fall Classic for quite some time.