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Boston Red Sox Look Good in Blue

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COMMENTARY | It was late in the 2012 season when the Boston Red Sox dumped a boatload of salary and players on the newly minted Los Angeles Dodgers, unloading $262 million worth of liabilities to a team willing to take them just to acquire All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

To get AGonz, the Dodgers gave up two of their top AAA pitching prospects in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, as well as infielders James Loney, Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus. Along with Gonzalez came Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto -- all under contracts that seemed burdensome last fall.

Signed to a huge deal, with $31 million remaining over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, former 20-game winner Josh Beckett was always a question mark during his stay in Boston, and former All-Star Carl Crawford was long on the DL after surgeries and after missing nearly all of 2012. The Red Sox, bloated and bleeding red, were throwing in the hustling veteran Punto since they already had enough younger infielders before acquiring Sands and De Jesus. It seemed like a high price to pay for Gonzalez at the time, but these Dodgers needed more pop in the lineup and AGonz had once hit 40 home runs not that long ago.

Loney Moves On and On

As much as we loved James Loney, his power numbers, RBIs and hits were all declining. Your first baseman simply has to contribute a lot more than a good glove, and Loney just couldn't do it. So the Dodgers gambled that with superstar Adrian Gonzalez backing up Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the middle of the order would be stacked and the team's troubles scoring runs would be over, at long last. It seems obvious today that Loney, now hitting .350 for the Tampa Bay Rays and high among the AL batting leaders, also needed a change. Sometimes it's the new team and scenery that brings out the best in a good -- if not great -- ballplayer.

So much for baseball theories. Managers and general managers live and die by them, but real baseball savvy is just a cousin once-removed from the educated guesswork that can never account for chemistry. The history of the game is dotted with great trades that went bust, and also with "throw-ins" blossoming into unexpected surprises that make scouts and coaches look like geniuses.

Now, with a fourth of the 2013 season in the books, it turns out that the Boston-L.A. trade looks way better for both teams than it did on paper. Webster has already been called up to the big leagues and De La Rosa is recuperating from Tommy John surgery faster than expected; now the Sox have a lot more monetary flex to work with come the July trading deadline as well.

Red Sox Players Do Well in Blue

Adrian Gonzalez (.309), although his power numbers are sub-par for him, has been the Dodgers' most consistent hitter from Day 1. The Dodgers haven't had a leadoff man with speed and power since Davey Lopes, but Carl Crawford (.302) recovered from his injuries in time to start the season in left, and has been doing a fine job leading off and hitting around .300 all year. His fielding lapses not withstanding, Crawford fills a gap that L.A. wasn't really looking to fill at the time. Nick Punto (.330) continues to perform admirably with bat and glove, subbing for injured infielders Mark Ellis and Hanley Ramirez and wherever else Don Mattingly inserts him. Unlike most veterans that come to play in L.A. and become instant has-beens the moment they put on that blue-and-white uniform, these three Red Sox look better in blue.

Only Beckett (0-5, 5.19 ERA) has been a big disappointment, his mediocrity fulfilling the predictions that boiled him like lobster in Boston. Is he toast here in L.A.? Can he find a way to recapture his glory days before he gets replaced in the starting rotation? It's too early to tell, but I'm sure Ned Colletti would like to replace Beckett's bloated salary with five or six young kids from Chattanooga or Albuquerque. If only he could.

For the time being, Beckett is on the DL and the verdict on the big trade of 2012 appears to be: so far, so good. With the noteworthy exception of A.J. Ellis, Boston's castoffs are playing far better in blue than the highly paid underachievers that populate this overpaid L.A. lineup.

Now it's just the Dodgers faithful seeing red.

Elliot Blinder, a freelance writer, has been following the Dodgers since they were in Brooklyn. He has personally witnessed Fernando Valenzuela's opening day shutout, Orel Hershiser's scoreless innings streak, and Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series.

Follow him on Twitter @ElliotsWindow.

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