On the surface, the most interesting aspect of the Red Sox' trade with the Yankees Monday was that it was actually with the Yankees. Brian Cashman has been general manager in the Bronx for almost exactly 23 years and just once -- once! -- had he made a swap with Boston.
In fact, just a few years ago Cashman stood in an Arizona ballroom at the GM Meetings and proclaimed he participated in trade talks with every team in baseball ... except the Red Sox.
But here it was, an actual deal between the teams. The Yankees sending their American League East rivals reliever Adam Ottavino and minor-leaguer Frank German in exchange for a player to be named later or cash.
It was perhaps the most unpredictable move in perhaps the least predictable offseason. Just ask the centerpiece of the trade, a 35-year-old reliever who grew up near Yankee Stadium but spent his college years in the shadow of Fenway Park at Northeastern.
"I think that's what surprised me the most today, was just that it was this type of trade," Ottavino said. "I feel like I'm going to end up a trivia question now one day. When Cashman told me Red Sox, that was not the name I expected. I knew I could be traded, but I definitely didn't expect that. It's kind of fun to be a part of something a little out of the ordinary."
But it was the final few sentences uttered by Bloom regarding the out-of-the-ordinary transaction which should have highlighted this bit of roster-building.
"I know it’s the Yankees and I understand what that means. It’s the most storied rivalry in sports. It’s part of what makes the history of this organization so great is getting to lock horns with those guys on a regular basis," Bloom said. "But if we’re not willing to do something that helps us because it helps them. Or worse if we’re worried it might not go as we expect and it blows up in our face and we look bad than we’re just playing scared and we’re not going to play scared."
Soak that in.
"We're not going to play scared."
This had been the unspoken mantra since Bloom was hired. But for many it was simply viewed as a thinly-veiled opportunity for ownership to ride out luxury tax/pandemic-induced cost-cutting.
The minute he took the job, Bloom became the guy at the carnival sitting over the pool waiting for the next pitch to drop him into five-feet of water. Over and over and over again. He was the guy who traded Mookie Betts. He was the guy who cycled in one faceless, nameless pitcher after another. He was the guy who seemed to trade Brandon Workman too early. He was the guy who held on to Jackie Bradley Jr. for too long.
Then came the almost-not-quite list of free agents.
This wasn't what we were used to in these parts. The Red Sox didn't sit on the offseason sideline. The Red Sox didn't lose out on guys they truly wanted. The Red Sox didn't wait idly by while Boston sports fans soaked themselves in apathy.
But then came that one move that for whatever reason started making some rethink their stance on Bloom and even the 2021 Red Sox. It was as if the only way to truly sell this plan was to execute something so outside-the-box --- like a trade with the Yankees.
It was almost like one of those computer-generated photos you have to stare at intently just long enough to actually see the sailboat. The move for Ottavino and German may have allowed the Yankees to sign somebody of importance thanks to $9 million off their books, but it also put the Red Sox' plan in a bit better perspective. Monday we finally saw the sailboat.
He got back about as good of value for Betts as could be expected (save for the continuing debate over Brusdar Graterol's long-term health). The other trades? Bloom dominated Philadelphia in the Workman deal and got back seemingly useful future assets for players (Mitch Moreland, Kevin Pillar) who served no purpose in a Red Sox uniform for Sept. 2020.
Then there was the uneasy offseason. Monday it for whatever reason became at least slightly more understandable.
Matt Andriese. Hunter Renfroe. Martin Perez. Kiké Hernandez. Garrett Richards and now Ottavino.
They have all become bizarrely some of the most interesting pieces of this $200 million puzzle.
There are no guarantees, but there are gumption and intelligence. And while there is nothing like a big, fat, juicy four-year free-agent signing, those aforementioned traits will have to do for the time being.
"I wasn’t as concerned going through it, I don’t think any of us were, of what it meant for the Yankees," Bloom said. "We were really just looking at how it fit our objectives. I think that’s important even if it is the Yankees. It’s very hard to be great if you’re too busy worrying about everybody else. We have to worry about ourselves."