What's Happened to the Boston Red Sox?

David ChangContributor IJuly 31, 2009

BOSTON - JULY 30:  Manager Terry Francona #47 of the Boston Red Sox reflects at a post game press conference after the game against the Oakland A's on July 30, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 8-5.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Ever since Terry Francona took over as manager, the Red Sox have been one of baseball's elite and most successful teams this decade with two World Series titles to show for it. As the current season has progressed, more and more concerns have been arising for the Red Sox.

Recently, the Red Sox have relinquished first place in the AL East. This is very concerning because they have won all of their games against the new first place team in the AL East, the New York Yankees. How did this happen?

The bigget reason for the Red Sox this year has been their offense. Despite having most of the same players in this year's lineup as last year besides Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox have been struggling offensively for last couple of months.

The biggest concern for the offense has been the abrupt absence of power from David Ortiz who as of yesterday has been reported as having failed a drug test in 2003 for Performance-enhancing drugs).

However, this is not the only concern for the Red Sox offense. Mike Lowell has seemed to have lost a step defensively and hasn't been as consistent a hitter as in years past for the Red Sox. Even the Red Sox captain, Jason Varitek, is becoming so much of a liability that the Red Sox have been rumored in discussions with Cleveland Indians for Victor Martinez.

The bright spot for the Red Sox has been their starting pitching at the top of their rotation. The Red Sox have a talented one-two punch in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester who are both capable of shutting down any offense. Both of these starters began horribly to start off the year, but have lately been solid for the Red Sox.

Behind them, though, is concerning because their is no clear cut third starter in the rotation ever since Tim Wakefield, who is having a superb season and earned his first selection to the All-Star Game, went down with a back injury. Daisuke Matsuzaka has been doing horrific this year posting a 1-5 record with a 8.23 ERA in eight starts this season.

Brad Penny's form, which looked to have turned a corner by pitching a great game against the Yankees, is reverting back into mediocrity. Jon Smoltz, a interesting pick up by the Red Sox last offseason, is really showing his age, showing little control or velocity on his fastball. Jon Smoltz is really losing games for the Red Sox.

In four out his six starts he has given up more than The Red Sox hope that Clay Buchholz, a talented young starter, is the answer as the Red Sox hold out until Tim Wakefield returns to the rotation in a few weeks.

Another concern for the Red Sox relinquishing first place is its bullpen. Even though its been a lot better recently, the bullpen was advertised as possibly being one of the best and deepest in baseball. Justin Masterson, Takashi Saito, and Manny Delcarmen have to start stepping up in order to not waste great games from Beckett and Lester.

Currently, the Red Sox are in second place to the Yankees. However, if the offense does a lot better and pitching improves, there is still an ample amount of time for them to catch up to the Yankees.