Boston Finds a Moving Buddy

Boston Finds a Moving Buddy

  • By JASON GAY

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Adrian Gonzalez

If nothing else, the Los Angeles Dodgers are a friend that will help you move—and these are good friends to have. By now, most of us have discovered that helping a friend move is a grievous mistake, never as easy as promised, usually consuming the better part of a weekend, and always involving a moment in which you find yourself smushed into a narrow staircase, clutching a chest of drawers by the fingertips, wondering why a professional isn’t doing this, and cursing the day you befriended your alleged friend. Later, when other friends inquire about moving assistance, you concoct bogus excuses: niece birthdays, elective surgeries, the family dog’s graduation from Harvard Law. This is rude and terrible and makes us bad people. This is also preferable to helping a friend move.

But the Dodgers will help you move. They don’t care. They will help with the chest of drawers, the mattress, the couch, the end tables, the TV console, and rugs. They will happily take items you no longer need. Pogo stick? Sure, sure. What else you got? Singing fish without batteries? Hand it over. Sweet.

Los Angeles proved it this weekend, when they helped the Red Sox transport not just one headache, but a whole series of them, letting Boston unload four players and enough cash to make at least three crummy Schwarzenegger movies. By now you have heard the specifics: the Red Sox traded All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, injured outfielder Carl Crawford, and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four prospects who will either become Hall of Famers or answers at pub trivia night. Nobody has a clue. This trade was about the money: more than a quarter billion dollars of contract obligations dumped upon a franchise with new, profligate ownership.

Red Sox fans are doing cartwheels, a good strategy, since they will need a hobby to amuse themselves in October, as their team will be windsurfing during the playoffs. But they didn’t make the playoffs last year, either, collapsing spectacularly, and through the first five months of 2012 they somehow got less likable, playing poorly and undermining their manager, Bobby Valentine, who hasn’t exactly been a cool blast of steadiness himself. They have had loads of injuries, sure, but this season had the whiff of something more personal and toxic, the kind of low from which a franchise might take years to recover.

Along come the Dodgers, wealthy, eager, hungry. They would take the $100-million-plus contracts of Gonzalez and Crawford, as well as Beckett, who seemed so miserable in his final years in Boston. L.A. would take the whole thing? The Red Sox must have felt like a homeowner walking down to the sidewalk with a cardboard box full of "According to Jim" DVDs and a FREE sign—only to have someone run up and offer $200,000 for the set.

Really? You want all of this?

These are good players, no doubt—Gonzalez remains one of the best hitters in the majors, Beckett is still only 32, and there’s always the chance that Crawford can recover from injury and reclaim his former, dynamic self. (I’ll leave the Nick Punto predictions to Nick Punto.) But the big three, acquired on the watch of the previous GM, Theo Epstein, appear to be on the downside. There was a real chance the Red Sox would have found themselves in the unfortunate position of watching once-great players age atop giant wheelbarrows of $100 bills.

Instead they are gone, someone else’s salvation and/or heartbreak. The Red Sox have done their best to not frame this maneuver as a culture shift, but it’s a little hard to believe they didn’t see an auxiliary, chemical benefit. They pulled the car over, booted everyone out of the back seat, and sped off.

Now the Red Sox are being hailed as geniuses. The deal is wildly popular in Boston, which was sick of the 2012 team, and Red Sox Nation is pledging patience. I like the deal, too, though I’m suspicious of this pledge. This is not the Boston I know, where the Long View is recognized less than Bucky Dent Appreciation Day. No doubt the Red Sox are a saner, less gloomy team. But can Boston tolerate two or three years of getting pummeled by the Yankees or finishing behind the Orioles? Maybe more? Are they ready to manage expectations?

Because Boston has moved to a different place. They could not have done it without helpful friends from the Dodgers. Good luck with all the shiny new players, Los Angeles. And the pogo stick.

A version of this article appeared August 28, 2012, on page D6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Boston Finds a Moving Buddy.

Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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