Tampa Bay Rays

What could things look like for Red Sox if MLB realigns divisions in 2020?

What could things look like for Red Sox if MLB realigns divisions in 2020?

Major League Baseball is discussing various scenarios as to how they can salvage the 2020 season. One of those ideas is to realign the divisions around spring training facilities, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

This would mean teams who have spring training in Florida will compete against other teams in Florida with the same going for organizations in Arizona. 

The division shakeup could be a breath of fresh air for baseball fans, but how could things shake out for the Boston Red Sox in their new division? We decided to take a look at the proposed Grapefruit League South Division and rank where we think the teams will place. Considering we won't know how many games will be played, we'll rank the teams without including their records.

MLB win totals 2020: Red Sox among five teams that will go under projection

MLB win totals 2020: Red Sox among five teams that will go under projection

With spring training workouts underway, it's time to peer into our Major League Baseball crystal ball for 2020.

Boston Red Sox fans may not like what they see.

Westgate Superbook updated its projected win totals for all 30 clubs last Monday after the Red Sox (finally) traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

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Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom admitted this trade makes his team worse in 2020, and Westgate's win totals reflect that: Boston now is projected to win 85.5 games, down from 87.5 prior to the Betts deal.

But can the Red Sox even reach that lowered bar? And which other teams are trending down, as well? Below are Westgate's win totals for five MLB teams, and why we're taking the UNDER on each total.

Boston Red Sox: UNDER 85.5

The Red Sox won 84 games last season with Betts and Price on the roster. Pitching was the primary source of their struggles, and they've done nothing to alleviate those concerns after losing Price and Rick Porcello, who combined to make 54 starts last season. The rotation will be thin even if Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi all stay healthy. If anyone gets hurt, we could be in for some long games at Fenway Park -- because Boston's 18th-ranked bullpen from 2019 remains virtually unchanged, as well.

Tampa Bay Rays: UNDER 89.5

As usual, the Rays project to be a Wild Card contender with strong pitching and a decent lineup of scrappy overachievers. But there's a lot riding on the health of top arms Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, who both dealt with arm injuries last season. If those issues crop up in 2020, Tampa Bay could have difficulty competing against the Red Sox and loaded New York Yankees in the AL East.

Washington Nationals: UNDER 90.5

I'm buying into the World Series hangover storyline, especially for a Nationals team playing in a sneaky competitive National League East, where the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets all are projected to win north of 85 games. Losing Anthony Rendon also doesn't help Washington's cause. The defending champs finish just over .500 while battling the Mets and Phillies for a Wild Card spot.

Texas Rangers: UNDER 79.5

Corey Kluber's addition helped boost Texas' win total, but the 33-year-old threw just 35 2/3 innings last season and isn't a sure bet to return to All-Star form. I'm also not convinced 34-year-old Todd Frazier will improve an offense that ranked 17th in the majors in batting average (.248) last season. Texas will make some early-season noise before fading to the middle of the AL pack.

Pittsburgh Pirates: UNDER 69.5

Pittsburgh's hire of ex-Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington signals a full-on rebuild for a club that won 69 games last season. There's little talent on this roster outside slugger Josh Bell and pitchers Chris Archer and Jamie Musgrove, and there's a very good chance the Pirates finish in the NL cellar.

Mookie Betts trade first step in remaking Red Sox into not the Rays, but the Dodgers

Mookie Betts trade first step in remaking Red Sox into not the Rays, but the Dodgers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They're really, officially gone.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mookie Betts and David Price were introduced in Dodger Stadium, where old friend Janet Marie Smith is overseeing renovations beyond center field, a fitting metaphor for a club using its vast resources -- financial, prospect, talent -- to build a champion.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away in Fort Myers, interim manager Ron Roenicke addressed a fair number of reporters himself on far more mundane topics. Will Darwinzon Hernandez start or relieve? Might the team acquire outfielder Kevin Pillar to balance a left-handed heavy outfield? Could Triple-A reliever Tanner Houck be in the mix for a bullpen spot?

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"Remember, I just got the job yesterday, so I'm not on board with everything that's happening so far," Roenicke acknowledged.

Two years ago, the Red Sox and Dodgers met in the World Series. Now, one of them is building, while the other is tearing it down. Boston ultimately expects to position itself like L.A., with the young core to open a multi-season window of contention, the prospects to provide depth and/or trade capital, and the financial resources to target any free agent in the game.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox are just beginning this process, which is how Betts and Price ended up donning Dodger Blue to polite applause, wearing Nos. 50 and 33, respectively, on Wednesday afternoon. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has already acknowledged the trade will make the team worse in 2020, an obvious admission that's nonetheless refreshing to hear. What he said next, though, points to his long-term goals.

"The big picture in how this fits into our chances to win as much as we can over the course of the next number of years, that had to take precedence," he said on Monday. "You can't be afraid to do something you think is right in the big picture."

And so the Red Sox cleared about $75 million in salary while acquiring three highly regarded prospects: outfielder Alex Verdugo, infielder Jeter Downs, and catcher Connor Wong. They'll provide a much-needed infusion of youth and potential to a system stripped almost clean by Dave Dombrowski, whose aggressiveness netted Boston a title in 2018, but left the organization teetering over a cliff. Bloom's first order of business, we now know, was to provide the final push.

How he picks up the pieces will be the challenge of the next two, three, five years. The Red Sox boast enough talent to remain in contention if circumstances break their way, but the odds probably aren't in their favor, thanks to some questionable investments in the starting rotation. What the Betts deal accomplishes is it frees Bloom to be the wheeler-dealer he was in Tampa, where the Rays cycled through talent like a wood chipper.

Financial restrictions tied his hands for most of this offseason, but now that the Red Sox have regained some flexibility, it will be fascinating to see how he uses it. The Rays made a habit of hitting on players overlooked by other organizations, be it All-Star right-hander Charlie Morton, who signed for two years and $30 million, or reliever Emilio Pagan, who was acquired in a complicated three-way team last winter, saved 20 games, and then got shipped to the Padres this past weekend.

Bloom will be able to target those kind of players here in the short term as a means to keep the Red Sox competitive while they retool, but make no mistake about the organization's long-term plans. John Henry has consistently spent among the top five payrolls in the game since acquiring the team in 2002, and he'll do so again. What he won't do is chase bad money with worse money, which is how we've ended up here today.

Boston isn't in danger of becoming Tampa North. The Red Sox intend to remake themselves into Dodgers East, a financial and player development behemoth that routinely competes for elite talent when they're not developing it themselves.

And one day, perhaps sooner than we think, they'll host the kind of press conference that had Dodgers fans clinking champagne flutes and dreaming of their first championship since 1988.

They just needed to take this painful step back before making what they expect will be a significant leap forward.