The Red Sox opened the trade deadline as sellers. They finished it as half-hearted buyers. That leaves them where no team ever wants to be, but where they probably belong -- stuck in the middle.
One can argue they're ever so marginally better today than they were when the weekend began. They addressed deficiencies at first base (Eric Hosmer) and in the outfield (Tommy Pham), but created holes at catcher (Christian Vazquez) and in relief (Jake Diekman, who may actually end up improving the bullpen by his absence).
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom described the roster as "more functional," which isn't exactly Rally Monkey levels of inspiring.
With Rafael Devers returning Tuesday night and the pressure now off Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, it's entirely possible the Red Sox go on a run and look more like the world-beaters of June than the egg-beaters of July. It may even buy Bloom a reprieve in the court of public opinion.
However, the schedule is a bear, and the overall talent level probably projects to be more lamb-like over the long haul. With Chris Sale effectively done for the year, Trevor Story recovering from a broken wrist, Eovaldi's velocity down significantly, and the bullpen featuring just three reliable arms, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox sustaining a playoff push into October, let alone through it.
And when they inevitably fall short before Martinez, Eovaldi and probably Bogaerts depart in free agency, we'll look back at the first two days of August as a missed opportunity.
The Red Sox didn't so much walk the tightrope as hog tie themselves with it. It's hard to call Pham and Hosmer "buys," even if they improve the outfield offense and first base defense, because they're minor moves best characterized as tinkering around the margins. By contrast, Vazquez was a clear sell, which isn't sitting well in the clubhouse. Bogaerts waffled on whether to call it, "waving the white flag."
Bloom was asked if he considered making the Hosmer and Pham deals without, you know, trading his starting catcher.
"We wanted to give this group a chance at the postseason," Bloom said. "I do think they have that chance. People who felt this group was good enough to make a run at it a few days ago, in my opinion, should still feel that way. This group looks a little different, but I don't think it's any less talented. Depending how you look at what we did, you could say it's more functional, especially with the stability we hope now to have at first base.
"At the same time, we always need to make sure we're not walking past opportunities to add young, impactful talent that can be part of our core to the organization. There are different choices you can be presented with over the course of a trade deadline or the offseason, this is one, as painful as it was, we felt we needed to take that opportunity."
The moves ultimately feel like half measures. A true sell-off would've jettisoned Eovaldi and Martinez before they can leave this fall. Per a rival executive, there was legitimate interest in both players, but a sense that the Red Sox couldn't commit to selling.
Likewise, a true buy would've added a reliever and perhaps a better first baseman, like Washington's Josh Bell, who went to the Padres in the Juan Soto blockbuster. When 6 p.m. ET arrived with no further movement than Hosmer, it felt like a letdown.
"If you had asked me last night, I would've thought we would've made more moves than we did," Bloom said. "The way the day unfolded, the way we looked at opportunities in front of us, at the end of the day, we didn't want to force anything."
It sounds good in a vacuum, but in practice, that's how a team ends up in the middle, which is the last place it should want to be.