Right up until 4 p.m. on Friday, the mantra rattled around the heads of uneasy Red Sox fans: Chaim will make a trade. Chaim will make a trade. Chaim will make a trade.
Chaim Bloom, the team's chief baseball officer, isn't a big fan of stasis, and he recognized that his first-place club had holes in need of filling. First base. Starting rotation. Bullpen.
About the only area not screaming for an upgrade was the outfield, but he struck there anyway, landing injured slugger Kyle Schwarber from the Nationals on Thursday night.
But as Friday rolled along, that hopeful unease gave way to crestfallen disappointment. That's it? That's all there is?
While the White Sox added an All-Star closer (Craig Kimbrel) and the Blue Jays added an All-Star starter (Jose Berrios) and the Yankees added a pair of left-handed sluggers (Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo), and the Rays added a monster DH (Nelson Cruz) and the Astros added a pair of closers (Kendall Graveman, Yimi Garcia) and seemingly everyone added a core piece of the 2016 world champion Cubs, the Red Sox effectively stood pat.
Schwarber should help, provided he heals in the next couple of weeks from the hamstring strain that has sidelined him since July 3, but even those of us who didn't necessarily expect a major splash at least anticipated a flurry of moves to improve the margins.
Instead we got Schwarber and last-second deals for relievers Hansel Robles (Twins) and Austin Davis (Pirates), whose collective ERA tops 5.00. Perhaps manager Alex Cora was hinting at this eventuality on Thursday when he redirected a question about rewarding a contending team with a big move at the deadline to make it instead about Chris Sale . . . and Marwin Gonzalez, Christian Arroyo, and Danny Santana?
"I think that skinny left-handed pitcher coming in a few weeks or in a month, it helps ... We'll see what happens, but I think having those guys come back, it helps us," he said. "They're established big leaguers, Marwin, Christian is having a good season, Danny, we know what he can do, and then we got two arms that are coming. I think that makes it a lot different than let's say, nothing happens, we're disappointed."
If there's one baseball trope that needs to die a grisly death, it's the idea that players returning from the injured list represent the true trade deadline reinforcements. In Sale's case, this might be true. But Gonzalez, Arroyo, Santana, and maybe Ryan Brasier? Uh-uh. That's called the status quo and it inspires no one.
If there's another narrative that didn't hold -- and sorry, because we pushed it here -- it's that Boston's looming 40-man roster crunch would force Bloom to deal some desirable prospects from a position of strength. It turns out Josh Winckowski, Jeter Downs, Durbin Feltman, Gilberto Jimenez, Frank German, and Co. might not have been so prized by rival organizations after all, because the Red Sox didn't move any of them.
Prospects played a central role in this trade deadline, and it's now clearer than ever that outside of Triston Casas and Jarren Duran, the Red Sox still don't really have anything worth discussing in deals for high-end talent. The Blue Jays began the day with seven of Baseball America's top 100 prospects and were able to turn two of them -- including the No. 12 overall, shortstop Austin Martin -- into Berrios, a right-hander who had already made two All-Star teams by age 25.
The White Sox, meanwhile, have been building their farm for years and were able to turn second baseman Nick Madrigal -- a Dustin Pedroia clone who has hit .317 in parts of two seasons -- into Kimbrel. Even if some of us remain skeptical of Kimbrel's reliability on the big stage, there's no question that he's in the midst of a monster season, and he joins a White Sox bullpen that already includes All-Star and AL saves leader Liam Hendriks, as well as flame-throwing former Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech.
That's called turning a considerable strength into an obscene one, and we can be forgiven for thinking Bloom might've had something similar up his sleeve. Instead, the Red Sox will ride the horses that got them here.
In fairness, that's pretty far. They remain one of the best teams in baseball, and it's possible that we'll look back at July of 2021 as the moment when they added an impact slugger while awaiting the return of their ace left-hander and that all eventually proved right with their world.
But right now, it's hard not to feel like they're limping along at 25 mph on the Autobahn, craning their necks at rivals that just whizzed by in a blur.