The Red Sox began the weekend with a payroll to rival the New York Yankees. They ended it with fewer long-term commitments than the Minnesota Twins.
That's how shocking the nine-player deal they swung with the Los Angeles Dodgers was, sending first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, right-hander Josh Beckett, left fielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto west and clearing more than $260 million from the payroll when all was said and done.
The Red Sox received first baseman James Loney and four prospects in return, but the real purpose of the deal was hitting a giant reset button.
Now general manager Ben Cherington can build the team his way, without being constrained by the onerous contracts of Crawford, Gonzalez or Beckett.
"As we look forward to this offseason, we felt like the opportunity to build the team that we need, that the fans deserve, that we want, required more of a bold move to give us an opportunity to really reshape the roster and reshape the team," Cherington said. "It was a difficult thing to do, to trade away four players like this."
What the trade means for the rest of 2012 is: See you in 2013. Without Gonzalez, the Red Sox lose their most productive hitter, albeit one having a down year by his standards. Without Beckett, they'll be forced to plumb the depths to fill his spot in the rotation, either with sinkerballer Aaron Cook or right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka.
But this move was made with the future in mind. Before the deal, the Sox had roughly $100 million in guaranteed salary already committed to 2013. Now they have less than $40 million. They basically have as much to spend as an expansion franchise building its roster from the ground up, but with the added bonus of a core that includes Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Will Middlebrooks, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and presumably David Ortiz.
"We're not limited in what we'll be able to explore," Cherington said. "At the same time, we've got to be smart about it. We've got to build a team and not be focused on one transaction."