Fortunately, the month of May has been relatively kind to the Red Sox so far—a 6-5 record through May 13 has pushed Boston's record up to an even .500 (19-19).
Had the Red Sox early season struggles continued, general manager Ben Cherington might have been enticed to offload some of the extra talent en route to the deadline. Yet the recent surge, which has put Boston in second place within the American League East, lends credence to the possibility that Boston will be more aggressive.
The Red Sox may be aggressive in the trade market for a number of reasons.
First, the team does have a couple of glaring needs on the roster. After a sizzling start to 2014, offseason acquisition Grady Sizemore has seen his batting average dip to .232. Jackie Bradley Jr., the player whom the Red Sox would like to see earn the starting job eventually, is batting only .219.
With Bradley, Boston can afford to be patient. He offers plenty in terms of his defense, and the hitting will, in time, come around. This requires said patience from not only the fans, but the coaching staff as well—an aspect further described by Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
Daniel Nava, such a feel-good story in 2013, is still trying to right the ship at Triple-A Pawtucket.
In short, Boston's outfield is glaringly thin in terms of overall production.
Then there is the left side of the infield.
Rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts may be better suited to play third instead of shortstop. He has committed four errors in 132 chances at shortstop thus far, and his range is somewhat limited. While current third baseman Will Middlebrooks is looking as if he has yet to shake off the ghosts of his lost 2013 season.
With these facts in mind, how will Cherington and the Red Sox front office look to bolster this team as it continues its World Series title defense?
What potential targets does Boston have in mind, and can they make a move?
Mark Normandin of SB Nation thinks so, citing the fact that the Red Sox have tons of organizational and prospective talent, yet only so many roster spots available. He writes:
It's likely the Red Sox will make a large trade this season. This isn't me relaying a whisper from a source, or a cry from a writer for the Red Sox to upgrade their roster: it's simply a matter of math. The Red Sox are and have been overflowing with prospects, and at some point, they're all going to need space on the 40-man roster. That space doesn't exist, and likely never will for many of the kids, meaning the Sox will have to turn them into pieces for trade or lose them outright come Rule 5 draft time.
Red Sox fans know the depth of talent waiting in the folds. They also understand this puts Boston in a unique position when it comes to acquiring major league talent.
So which realistic moves should we expect Cherington to try and execute?
Carlos Gonzalez: Outfield, Colorado Rockies
First off, this author would love to see Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in a Red Sox uniform at some point.
But at 20-20—three games back in the National League East—Miami's future does not quite indicate the team would be interested in moving their stud outfielder anytime soon. While the prospects of signing Stanton to a long-term deal look daunting for a team not known for high spending, the thought of moving him at this point seems minimal at best.
Following the news that last year's NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez will need Tommy John surgery after tearing his UCL, Miami could be interested in a return in pitching. But Stanton's availability is still far off the radar.
This opens the door for another intriguing possibility—Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is currently batting .263 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. The three-time Gold Glove Award recipient would help provide a solid defensive element at Fenway Park along with his offensive prowess.
The Rockies too are playing good baseball and find themselves in second place (23-18) in the tough National League West. But Colorado should not expect to keep pace with powerhouses like the Los Angeles Dodgers and the first place San Francisco Giants.
This opens up the door for a potential deal between Boston and Colorado.
Gonzalez is in the midst of a seven-year, $80 million deal, so the Red Sox would likely have to take a sizable portion of that contract. But the 28-year-old is still very much in the prime of his career, which would give Boston a venerable position player through 2017.
It is also worth noting that Ricky Doyle of NESN.com tabbed Gonzalez as a possible trade target prior to the 2014 season.
The move would likely cost Cherington a couple of their top pitching prospects. The Rockies—notorious for not developing young pitching—could use that element badly. A position player or two would likely sweeten the deal.
While acquiring Gonzalez would not be as heralded as the potential signing of Stanton, it would still be a considerable upgrade and would bolster an outfield needing some help at this point.
Justin Masterson: Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians
This move is directly related to the ineptitude of the back end of Boston's pitching rotation.
As mentioned above, the Red Sox have plenty of pitching prospects. Guys like Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Trey Ball and others are the current favorites to crack into this rotation. The only question is whether or not these guys are ready.
Both Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront have struggled up to this point—owning 6.44 and 5.09 ERAs, respectively.
While the Red Sox may still hinge on Buchholz finding his groove, Doubront could be on the short leash. Inconsistency has been his biggest problem.
Should Cherington decide to bolster the rotation—much like he did by acquiring Jake Peavy last year—trading for Cleveland Indians starter Justin Masterson may be a plausible solution.
At 17-20, the Indians are beginning to falter in the American League Central. The 29-year-old Masterson owns a 4.31 ERA thus far into the season, but it is worth noting that he is in a contract year and shall be a free agent following 2014.
Unless the last place Indians are seriously considering signing him to a long-term deal, Masterson should be readily available on the trade market.
Given Cleveland's offensive woes—a team .239 batting average—some prospective hitters would be a welcome addition. Like the potential deal with Colorado, a major league-ready position player could also make this move work.
Jimmy Rollins: Shortstop, Philadelphia Phillies
It would be weird to see 35-year-old veteran Jimmy Rollins in anything but a Phillies uniform.
But with Philadelphia in last place in the National League East (17-20), moving the veteran shortstop could be on the table for Philadelphia's general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
Rollins has the benefit of being a 10-year veteran and has played with the same team for five consecutive years, which means the 10-and-5 rights give Rollins the ability to waive any trade involving him.
Before the 2014 season began, Rollins indicated to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury that he would consider a trade if the Phillies floundered during the year. When asked if he would consider a trade, Rollins stated:
I don’t know. If we’re in absolutely last place with nowhere to go and change is obviously on the horizon, then at that point I’d think about it. But anything short of a complete disaster, I’m wearing red and white pinstripes.
Philadelphia is currently in last place, so the first portion of Rollins' criteria is coming to fruition. This opens up a possible door.
First, let's see how the potential addition of Rollins to Boston's roster would pan out. This would likely spell the end for Middlebrooks as the Red Sox's everyday third baseman. Bogaerts would surely shift over to third, and Rollins would fill the void left at shortstop.
Even at his age, Rollins' range is pretty solid. The four-time Gold Glove recipient pulled in one of these awards two years ago in 2012, so it's safe to assume he knows what he is doing over there.
Plus, Rollins' bat is still lethal enough to provide a substantial upgrade over Middlebrooks at this point. That alone would be worth consideration.
It is hard to predict what the Phillies would be looking for in exchange for Rollins. Perhaps they would want to cash in on some of Boston's other pitching prospects—potentially looking to "clean house" by executing similar trade-offs of pitchers like Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Or, they could be looking to get younger, considering the average age of the team is 31.4 years old.
Still, the Red Sox need defensive help. Rollins could provide that.
It is far too early to accurately gauge the specific trades Boston could execute en route to the July 31 trading deadline. There are targets out there that could be of interest, but with the ever-shifting nature of the league, who knows whether or not these targets would be available.
Still, the Red Sox do need some help in a few key areas.
Only time will tell how Cherington goes about making these additions, or if he makes any moves at all.
There is room to do so and the chips are there. But until pen is put to paper, nothing of the sort is guaranteed.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.