BOSTON — The Los Angeles Dodgers are stocking up for the stretch run with some new, expensive players who couldn’t help the Boston Red Sox make it to the postseason this year or last.
The 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 in cash to Los Angeles in the nine-player trade that was the biggest in Dodgers history. In return, the Red Sox got first baseman James Loney, pitcher Allen Webster, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. and two players to be named while shedding more than $250 million in salaries through 2018.
“We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league,” said Magic Johnson, the former NBA star who is part of the rich new Dodgers ownership group that has dramatically revamped their roster in the last month.
“When we came in, we made it clear that we want to build the Dodgers back to what they once were,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said.
Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat for the Dodgers, while the depleted Red Sox blew a six-run lead to the Kansas City Royals and lost 10-9 in 12 innings Saturday night.
Mauro Gomez, filling in for Gonzalez at first base, had four hits, including his first major league homer. But Aaron Cook, a late substitute for Beckett, gave up three runs before recording a single out, and after Boston rallied to take a 9-3 lead the bullpen couldn’t hold it.
Kansas City scored six in the seventh, all with two outs.
“It was frustrating,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “We couldn’t get that third out in the seventh inning. Had about four tries.”
Los Angeles, two games behind the San Francisco in the NL West, has in the past month acquired shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Shane Victorino, starter Joe Blanton and reliever Brandon League. The latest deal comes less than a week before the Aug. 31 deadline for players to be eligible for the postseason.
“It’s just exciting,” Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp said. “Everybody wants to win, and the guys up there are really making a statement and showing us that they want to win just as bad as we do.”
For the Red Sox, 13 1/2 games back in the AL East, the trade signaled a concession for 2012 and a chance to rebuild without hefty contracts given during an undisciplined foray into free agency that, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington conceded, has not worked out.
“It gives us an opportunity to build the next great Red Sox team,” Cherington said. “We just felt like to get to be a team we believe in and a team the fans deserve, to sustain winning year after year, it was going to take something more than cosmetic changes. It was going to take something bold.”
The Red Sox will save $261 million in salaries through 2018, plus a few million more for the rest of this season. Boston will send $11 million to the Dodgers as part of the deal, according to a baseball official with knowledge of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the financial terms were not public.
“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. … This is not about the four players we gave up — anything particularly they did wrong. We just didn’t perform as a team.”
Beckett was a key part of the team that won the 2007 World Series, but he was also the ringleader last year 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 demeanor — and rising ERA — continued to alienate fans.
The 2003 World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins, Beckett now moves from fried chicken 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 Valentine, who was brought in to replace Terry Francona, defended their departing players. But Valentine agreed that change was needed in the clubhouse.
“Yes. It was necessary,” he said. “(It) just didn’t seem like it mixed as well as it should.”
Players traded in August have to first pass through waivers. Any team with a worse record than Los Angeles could have claimed Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford before the Dodgers, but it would have had to pick up their contracts.
Instead, the teams worked out a deal that reshuffled the NL West race and had the rest of baseball talking, too.
“It’s surprising,” New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “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.”
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. Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford were already on their way to Los Angeles on Saturday, according to a picture Punto posted on Twitter; Boston pitcher John Lackey had already claimed Beckett’s locker, pulling rank over Clay Buchholz.
“Nothing surprises me in this game,” Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross in the Fenway Park clubhouse, where the nameplates had already been removed from his former teammates’ lockers. “This isn’t your normal trade. This is a blockbuster deal that will probably go down as one of the biggest, but it still doesn’t surprise me.”
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, writing “Even in the tough times I ran into so many wonderful people that were so awesome I’m Greatly appreciative to all of you.”
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 Triple-A 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 Double-A Chattanooga.