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Tomase: Would Red Sox really trade a core player? Don't rule it out

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Xander Bogaerts Rafael Devers JD Martinez

As injuries mount alongside losses within the division, the Red Sox stand only three weeks from a crossroads. And I'm no longer convinced their MLB trade deadline focus will be buying when they have so many tantalizing pieces to sell.

It's easy to miss, given the flurry of transactions since he arrived, but the reshaping of the roster under Chaim Bloom hasn't even started yet.

For two years, he has focused on bolstering the farm, with considerable success. A system that barely included a top-75 prospect when he took over now boasts three in the top 30 of Baseball America's most recent rankings, with shortstop Marcelo Mayer (No. 14) projecting as a future All-Star.

Red Sox well-represented on new Baseball America Top 100 list

On the big league side, however, Bloom has mainly tinkered around the edges of an impressive core. While unheralded pickups like Nick Pivetta and Kiké Hernández have provided unexpected value, the Red Sox have been driven by holdovers Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Christian Vazquez, and Nathan Eovaldi. The first three are All-Stars, Vazquez had a case this year, and Eovaldi made it last year.

Four of them will be free agents in the fall, when Devers will either agree to a contract extension or potentially be put on the market à la Mookie Betts. It's conceivable that none return next year. And here's where things get interesting with the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaching.

 

Bloom has his eyes on long-term sustainability, and letting free agents walk for draft picks isn't necessarily the best way to maximize resources. Trading one or more of the aforementioned names could be done in a way that brings back immediate help while also adding to the club's prospect inventory. Managing fan reaction, of course, would be a much tougher sell.

Because Bogaerts has a no-trade clause and Devers could contend for MVP, let's assume they're off the table. That leaves Martinez, Vazquez, and Eovaldi as potential trade chips, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them is playing elsewhere on Aug. 3. The players are clearly contemplating the possibility. Speaking to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, Martinez acknowledged the uncertainty.

There's the potential for this stretch of bad baseball to linger and impact Bloom's deadline thinking. And if that's the case, then none of the looming free agents are safe.

John Tomase

"Obviously you think about it as a player," he said. "Me, Bogey, Christian, Nate, some guys ... you can keep going. Guys that are impact players. At the same time, it puts these guys in a tough spot, too. They go and they get nothing back for them.

"I think either way is a win-win for us. That's how I view it. Xander is a little different because he has a lot of roots here and it's probably more emotional for him. He came up through this organization. Christian did, too.

"For me, this is the fourth team I've been on, and if you get traded, that means you're going to be on a contending team. And if you don't get traded that means you are on a contending team. It's a win-win."

In normal circumstances, veterans on a team firmly in wild card contention wouldn't be worried about switching uniforms until the fall. But Bloom's focus on the long view has guided every decision he has made with the exception of Kyle Schwarber, a straight rental who helped the Red Sox reach the American League Championship Series last year.

Tomase: Why Red Sox never should have parted with Schwarber

A similar move at first base along with relief help would provide a boost, although good luck selling the fan base on the trade of a veteran.

There's a doomsday scenario that I hesitate even to mention, because every person I've run it by both inside and out of the organization says there's no chance it happens. But it's worth noting that while the Red Sox are over the $230 million luxury tax now, those calculations aren't made until the end of the season.

Depending on whose numbers you believe, the Red Sox project to be anywhere from $11-$13 million over the threshold as things stand now. Because players traded at the deadline would have their salaries prorated for the roughly 35 percent of the season that remained, the Red Sox would have to trim anywhere from $31 million to $37 million in full-season salary to dip below the threshold.

That basically means trading two out of Martinez, Bogaerts, and Eovaldi. It sounds insane, but none is likely to return next year, given (A) the lowball offer to Bogaerts this spring, (B) the fact that they've been prepared to let Martinez walk if he had exercised any of his previous opt-outs, and (C) Eovaldi's age (32) and injury history.

 

With Trevor Story hurt in Tuesday's loss to the Rays and Devers not moving well while he deals with a sore back, the Red Sox could be in for more pain this week as they finish the first half in Tampa and New York. The schedule remains a bear right through the trade deadline, with series against the wild-card Blue Jays, the in-the-hunt Guardians, and first-place Brewers.

Even with Chris Sale looking effective in his 2022 debut and Eovaldi set to come off the injured list shortly, there's the potential for this stretch of bad baseball to linger and impact Bloom's deadline thinking.

And if that's the case, then none of the looming free agents are safe.