BOSTON — Last to first to last … to first?
“We didn’t anticipate the final record, but you play the games to determine that, and it is where we are,” manager John Farrell said after the defending World Series champions finished a 71-91 season. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, and a lot of that has already begun.
“When we took the field on Feb. 15, this is not what we envisioned.”
If you look back at the recent seasons, the Red Sox collapsed in September 2011 under Terry Francona, went through a 69-93, last-place season under Bobby Valentine in 2012, won it all under Farrell in 2013 and then blew apart in 2014, again finishing last.
Instead of waiting for the offseason, general manager Ben Cherington and ownership started the rebuild — yes, another rebuild — over the summer. Cherington dealt left-hander Jon Lester, in the final year of his contract, to the Oakland A’s to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. He sent right-hander John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and the outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig.
Amid talk Lester might come back this winter as a free agent, all three newly acquired players are under contract for next season, as are most of the players on the Boston roster.
The Red Sox also won the midseason bidding war for Cuban import Rusney Castillo, who came in and played center field for 10 games and went 12-for-36 (.333) with two homers and three stolen bases.
Having dealt Lester and Lackey, Boston traded away a combined 21-14 record — impressive on a bad team. That left the shaky Clay Buchholz as the No. 1 starter, his eight wins the most by any Sox pitcher still around at the end of the season (his 11 losses also were a team high). Thus, the obvious need as the season ended was for starting pitchers.
The organization possesses plenty of young arms, but veterans such as Lester, Chris Sale, Cole Hamels, James Shields and Max Scherzer are all viewed as possible additions, as well was Japanese import Kenta Maeda.
“We’d like to add to the rotation,” said Cherington. “There are different ways to do that.”
The bullpen was a question mark at season’s end with Koji Uehara shut down as the closer because of ineffectiveness. The team says it would like to have him back. He will be 40 on opening day.
As far as the anemic offense, the addition of Cespedes provided protection for designated hitter David Ortiz, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia should be healthy after hand surgery. Outfielder/second baseman Mookie Betts, a young player who showed plenty this year, could be dangled as trade bait.
Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is a potential trade target, and the Red Sox are said to have interest in the San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who will be a free agent this winter.
“There’s some interest in adding a left-handed hitter somewhere,” Cherington said. “There’s different ways of doing that, too.”