The Red Sox are not the Yankees. The blockbuster trade Saturday of four players, who together are owed more than a quarter of billion dollars on their contracts, showed how big names and a bloated payroll could only get Boston so far. In unloading the likes of Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez, the team admitted the value of starting fresh — and the impossibility of extending the magic of 2004 and 2007 forever.
For generations, the phrase “Red Sox fan” was automatically prefixed with “long-suffering.” Then, in 2004, the team finally won the World Series. Fenway Park became the most exclusive ticket in town, and to keep the wins coming the Sox seemed to sign high-priced free agents by the handful. But then came a terrible hangover: Last season, in the team’s quest to beat the Evil Empire at its own game, the Red Sox turned into a fried-chicken eating imitation of the Yankees.
The huge trade signaled a dramatic break from that period. The inevitable end of the team’s increasingly dubious sellout streak — whatever the official numbers say, more and more seats at Fenway Park go unoccupied — will send the same message. The Red Sox are no longer burdened with an 86-year curse or the more recent expectation of grandeur every season. Fenway faithful still want the Red Sox to compete, but for now the need to rebuild should bring down the pressure — and let fans relax in a way they haven’t been able to do in some time.