ERNIE CLARK

Trade a breath of fresh air for Red Sox

Earvin &quotMagic" Johnson
Robert Gauthier | MCT
Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Posted Aug. 25, 2012, at 12:58 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 26, 2012, at 3:54 p.m.

Just when things couldn’t have gotten any uglier inside the Red Sox clubhouse, a breath of fresh air arrives.

And Red Sox nation have Magic Johnson and the rest of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new ownership group to thank.

The Red Sox and Dodgers have completed an absolute blockbuster of a deal that sends Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to Los Angeles for first baseman James Loney — whose contract expires after this season — and four minor leaguers.

And while two of the prospects coming to the Red Sox may provide future pitching help, surely the most important part of the deal to the folks at Yawkey Way is the salary dump. The Red Sox are due to save more than a quarter-billion dollars in payroll from the trade — money they conceivably can use to rebuild a franchise needing a character overhaul.

Anyone who a few days ago could have imagined the Red Sox being able to rid themselves the contracts of Gonzalez, Crawford and particularly the increasingly despised Beckett would have been either dreaming or under the influence of hallucinogens, but when the newly cash-rich Dodgers placed a waiver claim on both Gonzalez and Beckett on Thursday the possibility grew.

For while the Red Sox are seeking to rehabilitate an image tarnished by last year’s chicken-and-beer induced September collapse and reinforced most recently by that sparse player turnout for Johnny Pesky’s funeral earlier this week, the Dodgers are in the middle of a pennant race in the NL West — beginning Saturday’s play three games behind the rival San Francisco Giants.

This move goes a long way toward changing those dynamics for both teams.

The Dodgers are restocked for the final five weeks of the season and have what they believe will be two cornerstones for their future in Gonzalez and Crawford — players who like Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo before them never seemed fully comfortable in the high-intensity Boston baseball atmosphere.

The Red Sox suddenly can tell their fans that indeed they are addressing the negative karma that has spread not only throughout their clubhouse but throughout their fan base. They can show proof they are changing the culture that has sent fans flocking to the Patriots for a sense of hope.

Surely they are not done — does anybody want John Lackey?

But now there is cash to resign David Ortiz for another year and pursue free agents, and there’s also space on the roster for the next generation of homegrown talent — including former Aruba Senior League World Series standout Xander Boegarts, who’s batting .339 with five home runs in 14 games for the Portland Sea Dogs, and promising Sea Dogs outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. — to provide additional fresh faces in the next year or two on a team in desperate need of a new coat of personality paint.

Are the Red Sox a better team today than they were yesterday? Possibly not right at the moment although by recent franchise standards there is nowhere to go but up.

But what this trade does accomplish is increase the chances that they will be better — and more fan-friendly — in the years to come.

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