The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett and injured outfielder Carl Crawford from Boston on Saturday, hoping to boost their playoff hopes by taking on the underperforming and high-priced stars who failed to thrive in a fractious Red Sox clubhouse.
Boston also sent infielder Nick Punto and about $11 million US in cash to Los Angeles in the nine-player trade that was the biggest in Dodgers history. The Red Sox acquired first baseman James Loney, pitcher Allen Webster, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. and two players to be named.
"They're in a pennant race and have an opportunity to add talent and were focused on that," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "It'll be our job to take advantage of this opportunity and build the next big Red Sox team."
Under a rich new ownership group that includes NBA star Magic Johnson, the Dodgers entered the day three games behind San Francisco for the NL West lead and in the midst of the wild-card race.
"We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league," Johnson said.
The Dodgers have dramatically revamped their roster in the last month with trades, acquiring shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Shane Victorino, starter Joe Blanton and reliever Brandon League and now the three active Red Sox players — Crawford is recovering from surgery — less than a week before the Aug. 31 deadline for players to be eligible for the post-season.
"Just from pure emotion, it's exciting to see this ownership group pulling off something like this and really making a push to do what they said — which is making this place a winner and making this team the best it can possible be," Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier said.
Said team president Stan Kasten: "When we came in, we made it clear that we want to build the Dodgers back to what they once were."
Foray into free agency
For the Red Sox, who entered the night 13 ½ games back in the AL East, the trade signalled a concession for 2012 and a chance to rebuild without hefty contracts given during an undisciplined foray into free agency that, Cherington conceded, has not worked out.
Even with $11 million going to the Dodgers, according to a baseball official with knowledge of the deal, Boston will save more than $250 million in salary from now through 2018.
"To build the team we need and the fans deserve and we want required more of a bold move," Cherington said. "It was a difficult thing to do to trade away four players like this. Beckett, in particular has been here a long time and been here for some of our best times in some of our biggest games."
But Beckett, who was a key part of the team that won the 2007 World Series, was also the ringleader in last year's collapse, when the ballclub went 7-20 in September and missed a playoff spot on the final day of the season. Reports of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games surfaced afterward, and Beckett's haughty demeanour — and rising ERA — continued to alienate fans.
The 2003 World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins, Beckett now moves from the home of Dunkin' Donuts to the land of In-N-Out Burger, bringing with him a pair of other players who were not productive enough to justify their contracts. Beckett was due $31.5 million over the next two years; Gonzalez has $127 million coming through 2018; Crawford is due $102.5 million over the next five seasons.
Both Cherington, who replaced Theo Epstein after the September collapse, and manager Bobby Valentine, who was brought in to replace Terry Francona, defended their departing players.
"The bottom line is we haven't won enough games. That goes back to last September," Cherington said. "We just haven't performed on the field. As a team we haven't performed. We've had individuals perform. This is not about the four players we gave up — anything particularly they did wrong. We just didn't perform as a team."
Players traded in August have to first pass through waivers. Other teams had a chance to claim Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford before the Dodgers, but their high price tags were likely a deterrent.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was surprising to hear of such a big trade.
"You're not used to seeing that many big names go in one trade. A bunch of All-Stars, guys who have been in World Series and played at a very high level," he said.
Red Sox players said before Saturday night's game against Kansas City that they were surprised to see their longtime teammates gone in a deal that came together quickly. Valentine said the speed of the deal left him little time to think about how it affected the rest of the season and beyond, though he was not as willing as Cherington to talk about 2013 as if the 2012 season was over.
Cleared out lockers
Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford in the Fenway Park clubhouse had already been cleared out Saturday afternoon. Boston pitcher John Lackey had already claimed Beckett's locker and the others' were left with generic nameplates.
Gonzalez, a former San Diego Padres star, said on Twitter in English and Spanish that he was excited to get back to California. Beckett joined the social media site to thank Red Sox fans, and Punto posted a picture of the three of them on what appears to be a private jet with the caption, "dodgers doing it first class!"
The 32-year-old Beckett is 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts this season. A three-time All-Star, he is 130-92 lifetime with a 3.93 ERA.
Gonzalez, 30, is a four-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner. He hit .300 with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs this season, his second since being traded by San Diego to Boston.
Crawford, at 31, hit .282 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 31 games this season. He had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow this week and is expected to take six to nine months to recover. Crawford was a four-time All-Star with Tampa Bay before signing with Boston.
The 34-year-old Punto hit .200 with one homer and 10 RBIs as a backup.
Loney hit .254 with four homers and 33 RBIs for the Dodgers this season. At 28, he'd spent his whole career in Los Angeles.
The 25-year-old DeJesus was optioned to AAA Pawtucket. He hit .273 in 23 games for the Dodgers this year. Webster, a 22-year-old right-hander, was 6-8 with a 3.55 ERA at AA Chattanooga.
The Red Sox and Dodgers haven't made a lot of deals over the years. Perhaps the most notable came in the summer of 1939 when Boston sent a minor leaguer to Brooklyn — he was future Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese.