The Red Sox, under the management of Dave Dombrowski, are a team clearly built to win now. It is why Dombrowski needs to make a trade now, because the Red Sox haven't done nearly enough to convince people they can win anything more than the American League East this season as presently constituted. And maybe not even that. The Red Sox need a bat. They need power. They have needed power all season.
Brian Cashman has already signed a third baseman and a bat the Red Sox sure could have used in Todd Frazier, without giving up any of his fancy prospects. Cashman, whose bullpen has been a major disappointment for months, as if trying to set some sort of big-city record for blown saves, got David Robertson -- the Yankee closer who followed the great Mariano Rivera in that job -- and Tommy Kahnle in the same deal.
Cashman has made one big move. He may make another for a starting pitcher like Sonny Gray. Now it is Dombrowski's turn in the AL East, where the Red Sox and Yankees might end up chasing the Tampa Bay Rays in the end, no matter how much they do between now and the Trade Deadline. Nobody is saying that Dombrowski was expected to replace David Ortiz in the middle of the Red Sox batting order this season. Ortiz is one of the great players in the history of the franchise, and will surely be honored someday by a statue on Van Ness Street the way Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski are. But Dombrowski has to do better than Mitch Moreland.
The Yankees were never supposed to be a win-now team this season. Since the Trade Deadline of 2016, the Yankees have been selling the future to their fan base, selling it hard. But it is quite clear that after some splendidly dreary seasons at Yankee Stadium, Cashman wants to put some points on the board, and now. All of a sudden, he's selling a different sort of future to Yankee fans:
August and September, 2017.
Maybe the Red Sox could have changed Cashman's thinking, settled him down a little, if they'd pulled away from the Yankees over the past 70 games or so, certainly since the Yankees started out 21-9 and were as big a surprise over the first quarter of the season as any team. But the Red Sox did not pull away and have not pulled away and might not pull away. Of course, Boston remains a very solid team, one with the truest ace in the AL: Chris Sale. But when you add everything up with the Yankees and the Red Sox so far, the only thing separating these two teams might be Chris Sale.
The Red Sox remain a team with a fine, young nucleus, with the Killer B's: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. Betts is the star of all of them, and come September might look like the same player who was as valuable as anybody in his league last season. But you don't carry an offense from the leadoff spot. It is Dustin Pedroia who has been the team's most dangerous hitter lately. Even with Sale, and with Drew Pomeranz pitching the way he has -- Dombrowski gets big props for him -- and David Price coming on, Rick Porcello is 4-12 coming off his AL Cy Young Award season. He didn't win the one postseason start he got last season against the Indians, and who in the world would think Porcello could win the Red Sox a big postseason game this season, if he even got the ball for one?
But the more pressing issue for the Red Sox is offense, specifically in the power department: The team, through Thursday's loss to the Blue Jays, is tied for 12th in the AL in slugging percentage and hasn't hit 100 home runs yet, despite being second in the league in batting average. They need home runs. Who knows if somebody like Josh Donaldson is really going to be in play over the next 10 days or so? Doubtful as that is, the Sox need somebody more like him than anybody they have now. They need to add an arm to their bullpen -- Zach Britton? -- the way the Yankees just did. If Dombrowski wants to endear himself to an anxious Red Sox nation, he needs to go get guys like that.
The Red Sox weren't just built to win a World Series this year. They were built to win the World Series last year. Then they couldn't get a game off the Indians, even with Ortiz still in the room. Porcello couldn't win a start and neither could Price, and Terry Francona put on a managing clinic with his bullpen and the Indians swept the Red Sox, goodbye.
Now here the Red Sox are. They still have the second-best record in the league behind the Astros, who haven't just run away from their own division, they've run away from everybody. They have Betts and Bradley Jr. and Benintendi in the outfield, have Bogaerts and Pedroia up the middle, have a right to expect that Hanley Ramirez can get hot the way he did about this same time last season. Sale alone would make them dangerous in a short series. After the Astros, they really are as good as anybody else in the league.
But are they good enough to win it all?
Here is what Dombrowski said on the NESN pre-game show the other day:
"I think we're open to upgrading ourself any way we possibly can. Third base becomes the obvious because when you look at the rest of the club from a positional player perspective ... [and] mostly from a pitching perspective, there's not any glaring weaknesses at that point."
There is. Middle of his batting order.
It is funny how things have worked out for the Red Sox over the past decade. They have been a little like the football Giants, who under Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls and didn't win another playoff game, not a single one. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2007, won the World Series in 2013 when it seemed as if just about everybody they had got hit by lightning. In all the other seasons since 2007, they have won one playoff series, an AL Division Series against the Angels in 2008. In so many ways, the Red Sox have been a false power of their sport.
They go into the weekend 11 games over .500. No shame in that. But they need power to be a power again, in their division and in their league. Good time for the president of their baseball ops to show some of his own.