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Offseason-In-Review: The Red Sox separate themselves from the rest of the AL East

Dave Dombrowski was hired to put Boston over the top, and he made moves to do just that this offseason.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Red Sox (93-69)

Key Additions:

Chris Sale acquired from White Sox

Tyler Thornburg acquired from Brewers

Signed Mitch Moreland from Rangers for 1 year, $5.5 million

Key Subtractions:

David Ortiz retired

Clay Buchhoz traded to Phillies

Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Victor Diaz, Luis Alexander Basabe traded to White Sox

Travis Shaw, Josh Pennington, Mauracio Dubon traded to Brewers

Koji Uehara signed with Cubs

Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa signed with Marlins

Dave Dombrowski is notoriously loose with his prospects, willing to trade future value and control for present value. That’s one of the reasons the Red Sox invited him to head up their front office, to hopefully push a good and young club over the top to another World Series win. And, true to form, when the free agent market didn’t offer significant upgrades in the rotation or the bullpen for reasonable money, Dombrowski and his front office team worked the phones.

They made a monster deal to bring in Chris Sale, giving up perhaps the best prospect in baseball in Yoan Moncada and three other players, including Michael Kopech, of the 100 MPH fastball. The same day, they sent third baseman Travis Shaw and a couple more prospects to the Brewers for relief ace Tyler Thornburg, building a strong bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel after losing Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa to free agency. The Sox also signed defense-first first baseman Mitch Moreland from the Rangers, allowing them to shift Hanley Ramirez to designated hitter, at least against righties.

Catcher remains a sore spot for the Sox, with Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, and Christian Vazquez all vying for the starting job. Leon, 28, had a very out of character half-season in 2016, smashing the ball to the tune of .310/.369/.476. He’s never done that before, even in the minors, but his hot streak gives him the inside track on the starting job. Vazquez is 26 and has suffered through injury problems. He’s offensively challenged, but a strong defender. And Swihart, 24, is something of a chimera. He hits well, but his defense is suspect, including a bout with the yips this spring as he tried to get the ball back to the pitcher. He’s also the only candidate who has options left, and in theory he can play in the outfield. Dombrowski had a chance to bring in Matt Wieters late in the offseason at a steep discount, but instead chose to move forward with his trio. Sox fans will have to hope he was right.

But that’s really the only hole, so long as Pablo Sandoval bounces back from his shoulder problems as expected. Regardless of what happens at catcher, the continued offensive development of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Xander Bogaerts means that Boston is again poised to win more than 90 games and is the favorite to repeat in the AL East, especially with the Blue Jays taking a step back, the Yankees still consolidating from their mini-rebuild, and the Orioles trying to turn Pedro Alvarez into an outfielder.

Their rotation is strong and deep. Their bullpen is loaded. Despite all the trades they’ve made, they still are deep in position players and prospects. And even though David Ortiz retired, Dustin Pedroia and David Price are still on hand to provide veteran leadership. Get used to seeing the Red Sox on top in the AL East. Because it’s going to take Dombrowski years to burn through all his prospects and all the talent he has to work with in the Majors.