It feels inappropriate to turn our attention to Major League Baseball's trade deadline after a week that saw civil unrest reach the generally staid and risk-averse national pastime, and yet the pages of the calendar continue to turn.
Teams have until Monday at 4 p.m. to complete deals, and the Red Sox remain in the same position they were before protests reached baseball's shores -- looking to sell in a sea of buyers.
There are worse places to be from a leverage standpoint, and there's little doubt Chaim Bloom will be active over the next 48 hours, even if the entire sport effectively spent Wednesday through Friday on hiatus and continues to grapple with its treatment of minorities.
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"We all have jobs to do and we're going to keep doing those jobs," Bloom said. "We need to continue to run our organization and obviously we're going to play a game (Friday night) and everything that comes with that needs to happen, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time."
So what might the Red Sox do? Everything and everyone is on the table. If the club has three untouchables, they're shortstop Xander Bogaerts, third baseman Rafael Devers and outfielder Alex Verdugo, but Bloom has already made it clear that he'll listen on anyone. As he illustrated last week when he sent closer Brandon Workman and setup man Heath Hembree to the Phillies for a pair of pitchers -- one who has yet to throw above Double A -- he intends to take the long view.
A natural trade partner, despite being a division rival, is Tampa Bay. Bloom probably knows Tampa's system better than Boston's, having spent more than a decade there working his way through player development. Multiple reports have pegged catcher Christian Vazquez as a potential target, and it makes sense.
The Rays suddenly own a four-game lead on the Yankees and a 22-11 record that's only half a game behind the A's for the best in the American League. Starting catcher Mike Zunino is hitting .133 and backup Michael Perez is at .179. While the Rays technically lead the American League in runs (167) after a slow start, more than a quarter of their production (42) came in a recent four-game sweep of the woebegone Red Sox.
Tampa's offense is built around All-Star second baseman and MVP candidate Brandon Lowe, who leads the club with 10 homers and 27 RBIs. The Rays do not boast a single regular hitting .300, however, and could use an upgrade at catcher.
Vazquez's reasonable salary -- he's due just over $6 million next year with a $7 million team option for 2022 -- fits Tampa's payroll, and because he just turned 30, he's a decent bet to remain productive during that span.
Vazquez also could draw interest from catching-starved playoff contenders like the Indians and Padres, however, which means there should be a robust market for his services. Though he could easily be considered an important piece of Boston's future, it's also unlikely that his value will never be higher.
Another player certain to draw interest is reliever Matt Barnes. The Red Sox have received more calls on the power right-hander than any other member of their bullpen in recent years, and clubs aren't likely to be scared off by his mediocre numbers (1-2, 6.00), given his overall body of work. Barnes' combination of 95 mph fastball and power curve is exactly what teams covet in the late innings, and while his name has been linked to the Astros, he should be of interest to virtually every contender, especially since he remains under team control for another year.
The drop-off after those two is considerable, unless the Red Sox plan to trade designated hitter J.D. Martinez. The slugger is mired in a slump (.205, three homers, 15 RBIs), but he's only 32 and is a proven middle-of-the-order slugger who could upgrade the DH slot of most National League teams, at a minimum. The wild card is his opt-out this fall, which makes his future uncertain. Do clubs acquire him assuming he'll remain in place for the final two years and nearly $40 million of his deal, or do they treat him like a straight rental? The difference from a return perspective if you're the Red Sox would be significant.
The rest of the pieces the Red Sox have to offer are decidedly of the complementary variety, whether it's slugging first baseman Mitch Moreland, defensive-minded outfielders Kevin Pillar and Jackie Bradley Jr., or reliever Ryan Brasier, who is rediscovering his 2018 form, even if he recently made a regrettable off-field choice by posting a video that mocked the protests for equality.
Those protests hang over this entire trade deadline, but they can't keep Bloom from looking forward. The Red Sox have work to do, and it starts now.
MLB trade deadline: Breaking down where Red Sox stand as rumors swirl originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston