This is exactly why you hire Dave Dombrowski. The Red Sox have pussyfooted their way through the last several offseasons, letting guys like Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury leave while spending reasonably on guys like Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Justin Masterson (though, fat lot of good that did them). They made reasonable trades to acquire Rick Porcello and Wade Miley. The Sox hoarded their prospects, and tried to build from within.
Some of it worked. Xander Bogearts and Mookie Betts are fantastic. Jackie Bradley has rebounded. And Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens both look like a strong young starters over the long term. Clay Buccholz is around and relatively inexpensive for two more years, and is a solid number two starter when he's healthy. There is an infrastructure here of a good, young, cheap roster.
But the team overall has collapsed over the last two years, unable to match the production of departed stars with reasonable replacements.
Dave Dombrowski, however, does not do reasonable. He goes big. He trades four prospects for Craig Kimbrel. He hands David Price the largest contract for a free agent pitcher ever. He tosses around money and is the biggest, baddest kid on the block. He puts his stamp on a revamped roster. And the Red Sox will be better for it.
After all, Price is perhaps the jewel of this free agent class. A workhorse left-handed ace who has had incredible success in the AL East. Assuming he stays healthy, Price figures to be a candidate for the Cy Young Award every year he is in Boston, which may not be for too long given that he had the good sense to negotiate an opt-out clause into his deal after the 2018 season.
Ben Cherington did a fine job setting up the Red Sox for this moment, and we shouldn't forget him when we're handing out the credit. He shelled out for Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada in the Cuban market. He helped draft and sign the prospects that netted Kimbrel. He stocked enough of the Red Sox system with young, controllable pitchers that Dombrowski had the freedom to bid $30 million more than anybody else for David Price, and presumably still have room to add even more.
But Cherington was also not up for this challenge. Or at least not as up for it as Dombrowski, who spent the last 14 years going for the throat, making big move after big move to keep the Tigers relevant. I said when he was hired that Dombrowski was exactly the right guy to push the Red Sox back to relevance, and he demonstrated why here. I wouldn't know, as a Twins fan, but I bet it's incredibly satisfying to see your team pony up for one of the best players on the free agent market and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your team's future is brighter than its past.
Price and Kimbrel (and Chris Young) aren't enough to push the Red Sox back to the top of the AL East, but they are yet another signal that the Red Sox aren't content to be sleeping giants anymore. Indeed, if there's one thing that I'm convinced of, it's that there are more big splashes ahead as Dombrowski does what he does best. By the time the dust settles, I expect the Red Sox will be favorites again in their division and a powerhouse for years to come.