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Insider

Winners, losers of Dodgers-Red Sox trade

8/25/2012

If you want some insight into how at least a couple of major Red Sox star players are feeling about the situation in Boston, think about this: Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett both have the power to blow up the biggest salary dump in baseball history by just saying no and exercising their veto power, yet both are going along with the deal without asking for anything in return.

The MLB Players Association always encourages/nudges/pushes agents to never give away something for nothing, but, in this case, both players went along with the deal faster than a couple of guys exiting a burning building.

Crawford and Beckett are among the winners and losers of this deal, which will was announced as official today.

Winners: The Dodgers of 2012

They are markedly better today than they were before this deal. Adrian Gonzalez is perfect for their lineup, their lineup balance, their defense and their ballpark, and he knows the division from his many years with the Padres. Beckett might be energized, and he gets to shift out of one of the best-hitting divisions to one of the worst.

Winners: Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and the rest of the Dodgers' ownership group

In less than four months, these owners have managed to completely rebrand the franchise, and, even if the Dodgers don't make the playoffs this year, they've set themselves up for a major bounce forward in attendance and interest and team success in 2013. The city might throw them a parade even if they don't win the World Series because, ding-dong, the Frank McCourt era is over.

Loser: The reputation of the Red Sox

Players and coaches constantly talk with players and coaches on other teams, which is why Boston's dysfunction and the toxic relationship between the Red Sox players and Bobby Valentine is so well known in other clubhouses, and it's how the stories of problems have been passed around the sport like a virulent flu.

Beckett might no longer be a favorite of Boston fans, but he is respected among players. Crawford is eminently likable. Genial Gonzalez knows practically everybody in both leagues because, as a first baseman, he gets a chance to speak to almost everyone. Other players will ask these players and others about what happened, and other players will hear about how it came to be that these three established stars embraced the opportunity to exit Boston less than two years after agreeing to massive contracts with the Red Sox. The stories told about the club's management and about Valentine will be ugly and perhaps one-sided, not necessarily fair. But they will become a factor as the Red Sox look to acquire players from other teams -- as well as retain their own stars, including Jacoby Ellsbury.

A decade ago, when the Orioles' decline became steep and no prominent player would seriously consider signing with Baltimore, then-GM of the Orioles Syd Thrift joked that it seemed as if his team was working with Confederate money. Unless there is a significant and tangible change, the Red Sox may well be facing a similar dynamic.

Winner: The Red Sox baseball operations department

In interviews earlier this summer, former Boston GM Theo Epstein made reference to the fact that, somewhere along the way, the Red Sox had lost their sense of self. They had devolved from a quick and smart and flexible and aggressive organization to a team that constantly fretted more about TV ratings and its sellout streak than about winning games.

This trade, with its massive payroll savings, will give the Red Sox an opportunity to get back to the way they operated early and midway through the last decade, before the signings of John Lackey, Beckett and Crawford all but froze the payroll. As one member of the organization explained Friday, this will give the Red Sox a chance to find themselves again, through player development and smart acquisitions.

But, although this course sounds like a good plan today, it also will require a follow-through from the club's ownership -- and there's nothing certain about that, as we saw in the case of Crawford, when John Henry quickly blamed others for that decision. The Boston ownership is extremely concerned with how it is perceived on a day-to-day day basis, and this factor is not conducive to the execution of a long-range plan.

Losers: The Dodgers of 2017

The team's stunning spending spree feels good today, but Los Angeles has set itself up to have a roster loaded with aging stars in about five years -- Matt Kemp, Gonzalez, Crawford and Andre Ethier all have contracts that run through that season. By then, the Dodgers' farm system should be replenished, and the club's ownership should have the resources to pave over that type of problem in the way the Yankees have -- and, in any event, Dodgers fans won't have to worry about that for a while.

Losers: The rest of the NL West

We keep waiting to see where the bottom of the Dodgers' financial well is, and just when we thought we might've heard the kerplunk -- with the trades for Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton -- Magic Johnson & Co. just keep going. This is what the Dodgers' lineup could look like next season:

LF Carl Crawford

2B Mark Ellis

1B Adrian Gonzalez

CF Matt Kemp

RF Andre Ethier

SS or 3B Hanley Ramirez

SS or 3B TBD

C A.J. Ellis

The Colorado Rockies are rebuilding and have a long way to go to get back to respectability. The Arizona Diamondbacks are working with about 40 percent of the resources the Dodgers have. The San Francisco Giants, a strong franchise, might be outspent by 50 percent by their archrivals. And there are folks in the San Diego Padres organization who are waiting to see the level of commitment put forth by their new ownership.

Winners: Columnists and talk radio hosts in Boston

Fairly or not, Beckett and Gonzalez had become drive-time symbols of a clubhouse culture that had gone badly, so, in the week ahead, it figures that this move will be roundly applauded in Boston, considering that the team is about 20 games under .500 for the past calendar year.

But with this massive salary dump by the Red Sox will come an expectation that the team will immediately use its savings to invest in the product for 2013 and beyond, and, all winter, this will fuel speculation about whether the team should pursue Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke or other big names. And, when it turns out that the Red Sox will (probably) make more modest moves and lower the payroll, this, too, will generate a strong reaction.

Winners: Crawford, Beckett and Gonzalez

Crawford never seemed comfortable playing in the confined left field of Fenway Park, and, after he comes back from Tommy John surgery next year, he'll have acres of ground to roam free, in a much easier environment. Beckett and Gonzalez get do-overs and go from playing for a sub-.500 team to a pennant contender.

Winners: Jon Lester and Ellsbury

Given the Boston strategy of a total overhaul, it would make sense for the Red Sox to follow through and market Lester and Ellsbury.

Winner: Valentine

The first-year manager has expressed concern about the clubhouse culture in radio interviews, and now some of the veterans who shaped that are gone -- leaving Valentine with a little less than six weeks to convince the Red Sox owners that, without Beckett and Gonzalez, he can be a more effective presence. He might have to be flawless in his performance, however, including a strong on-field finish from the team, because thus far it's hard to assess his time as manager as anything less than a total disaster.

And , although Gonzalez might have been one of the most prominent players to participate in the midsummer mutiny, keep in mind that about two-thirds of the players participated.

Winner: The Red Sox manager who follows Valentine

Whoever he is, he will be warmly welcomed by his players (initially, at least).

Winner: David Ortiz

His bargaining power has been strengthened significantly. Ortiz wants a multiyear deal, and not only do the Red Sox now have the challenge of persuading a productive player to come back to a much thinner lineup but an unpopular ownership is charged with keeping a very popular player on its roster. Ortiz had to settle for a one-year deal for 2012, but the guess here is that Ortiz will get a multiyear deal this winter.

Loser: Dustin Pedroia

He wants to win, and, given Boston's glaring holes for 2013 -- two starting pitchers, a No. 3 hitter/1B, SS, LF, maybe a closer -- and the team's current financially conservative mindset, the Red Sox rebuilding effort might take a couple of years. Pedroia is signed through the 2014 season, at $10 million per year, with a club option of $11 million for 2015, and it'll be interesting to see how he reacts to this reconstruction.

Winners and losers: Red Sox fans

I grew up in New England and have heard time and again from Red Sox fans that they found the 2012 team to be more unlikable than any version they had watched before, so, as the changes come, there is celebration among many of them, for sure.

But under the category of Be Careful What You Wish For: It's possible that at least a couple of more years will pass before the Red Sox seriously contend for a World Series again, which might be difficult to swallow for a fan base that has become as demanding as the Yankees' fan base in its expectation for success.

One last note: This would be the first time in MLB history in which two players with $100 million remaining on their contracts were involved in a trade.

The four players who would be dealt to the Dodgers have a total of $262.5 million left on their contracts after the 2012 season:

Adrian Gonzalez -- $127 million, six years

Carl Crawford -- $102.5 million, five years

Josh Beckett -- $31.5 million, two years

Nick Punto -- $1.5 million, one year