While the Boston Red Sox were celebrating their 2013 World Series victory at Fenway Park, I wonder if owner John Henry, team president Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington thought back on Boston's fateful trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Not very often does an organization get to hit the reset button like the Red Sox did in August of 2012 by trading $260 million in salary with the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers.
Little did they know it, but Boston created the new model to win for MLB—a blueprint for all contending teams. Depth wins. Regardless of a team's payroll, teams can't tie up all of their payroll in a couple of players, especially if they pick the wrong players.
We saw it again on Wednesday with the Detroit Tigers dealing Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in a deal that was first reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. Teams are slowly coming to the realization that investing a $150 million into almost any one player doesn't make much sense in trying to build a team.
Most of these massive contracts don't work out for the team and the players. The Red Sox learned this the hard way with the 32-year-old Crawford and the 31-year-old Gonzalez, players who never seemed to find a comfort level in Boston.
Crawford was a player who had thrived in playing for the small-market Tampa Bay Rays, but struggled in the spotlight of Boston. The fact that Crawford was still complaining to the Los Angeles Times about the pressure in Boston a year after the trade to the Dodgers was a perfect illustration of his makeup.
Fans and the media in Boston actually gave Crawford the benefit of the doubt while hoping for different results. His stats from Boston come from the equivalent of a season full of games. Crawford hit 14 home runs with 75 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 161 games. His slash line was .260/.292/.419 during that two-year stretch.
The Red Sox also learned their lesson with Gonzalez, a player who should have loved playing in Fenway Park and should have been embraced by Boston fans. Instead, he acted like a mercenary in every sense of the word with no desire to provide any leadership in the clubhouse. Watching Gonzalez's antics during the playoffs this year, Boston was probably even more relieved to have moved him last season. There is a reason that a player as talented as Gonzalez is already on his fifth team.
Cherington was able to build a team through seven short-term free agent, including Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Ryan Dempster and Shane Victorino. Those signings propelled the Red Sox to their third World Series title in 10 years, with only Victorino on the books after the 2014 season.
Los Angeles already has $168 million in salary commitments for 2014. The Dodgers still have four years and $82.5 million remaining with Crawford, five years and $105 million remaining with Gonzalez and the last remaining year for Beckett on the books at $15.75 million.
The Red Sox have $125 million under contract for 2014, but only minimal salary commitments past 2014 and only three players currently under contract.
While both teams would probably make the trade again, most of baseball will likely follow the blueprint of the Red Sox in hopes of creating the same results.
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