HOUSTON — Christian Vázquez was seated at a round table in the visitor’s clubhouse three hours before first pitch on Monday, playing dominoes with Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and a few other teammates.
Outside of the clack-clack-clack of the tiles, the room was quiet as other players refreshed their phone screens looking at the latest trade rumors to see if their teams were being mentioned.
About 90 minutes later, Vázquez was back in the clubhouse packing up his equipment bag after being traded down the hall to the Astros for two minor league prospects.
In an awkward scene, Vázquez was in the lineup for the Sox and had just finished batting practice on the field when word of the trade came down.
Carrying his bat, he walked out to shortstop to talk to Bogaerts for a few minutes. They were first teammates in 2011 at Single A Greenville in and have been good friends since.
Vázquez, who looked stunned, then made his way to the dugout. Another long-time teammate, Matt Barnes put an arm around him.
Seeing a group of reporters from Boston, some he has known for eight years, Vázquez stopped to take questions.
“It’s a business …” he said before a Red Sox public relations official, Carlos Villoria Benítez, grabbed Vazquez by the shoulder and tugged him away.
Vázquez wanted to finish his answer but Benítez was insistent.
Those were his last moments in a Red Sox uniform. Presumably the Astros will treat him like an adult.
J.D. Martinez was watching from a distance. He stayed in the lineup for Monday night’s 3-2 win, but the odds are against it for Tuesday.
“That’s the hot question. I think anything’s open now,” Martinez said.
Martinez and other Red Sox players are disappointed to see the team being broken up. Many feel president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom should have made some deals to supplement the roster when a series of injuries struck last month.
Instead the only additions were overmatched minor leaguers and the season quickly fell apart as the Sox lost 21 of 29 games. That created a credibility gap between the clubhouse and the front office.
As one player said, Bloom seems more interested in the 2024 Red Sox than the team on the field now.
“It’s a tough situation. I’m not a GM. I don’t have my GM hat. I don’t know the whole situation with the franchise and the prospects they have,” Martinez said. “All I know is we have the feeling that our team [was] good enough to compete.”
Seeing Vázquez traded was unsettling for veteran players like Martinez, Bogaerts and Barnes. Vázquez has established himself as one of the best catchers in the game and was widely respected.
“You think?” said Alex Cora when asked if it was an emotional day.
When Cora took over as manager in 2018, he was tough on Vázquez and it wasn’t always welcomed. Sandy Leon took away his playing time but Vázquez earned it back and caught the final pitch of the World Series.
“It’s very difficult,” Cora said. “But understanding that this is part of the business . . . We love the kid. He’s a very popular guy in the clubhouse. He’s a great person.”
On a day when the Sox also acquired catcher Reese McGuire from the White Sox and outfielder Tommy Pham from the Reds, Bloom claimed the intent was for the team to still compete for a playoff spot.
But trading Vázquez sent a much different message.
“This is one that I know hurts in the clubhouse,” Bloom said. “Very aware of that.”
A well below-average hitter early in his career, Vazquez has hit .272 with a .745 OPS since 2019 and played in 84 percent of the team’s games. When Cora asked, he happily played games at first base, second base and third base.
“[The Astros] are getting a great player, a guy that you know is going to put everything he has into the game,” Martinez said.
Vazquez is a reliable catcher who hits well, has shown he can succeed in Boston and wanted to stay there. Players like that are hard to find.
“Great game-caller, great behind the plate, really works well with the staff. We know that he prepares,” Astros GM James Clinch said. “He knows the scouting report and can execute it.”
The clubhouse was subdued after the victory against the Astros. The trade deadline is at 6 p.m. Tuesday and there’s a sense that more subtractions are coming.
Vazquez still had a locker. But the only items left hanging in it were Red Sox-issued t-shirts, shorts, pullovers, socks, and uniform pants.
Monday was the first time the Sox were at Minute Maid Park since last Oct. 22 for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
They lost that game, 5-0, to end the season. But there was a sense of optimism afterward. The Sox won 92 games in the regular season, beat the Yankees in a thrilling Wild Card Game at Fenway Park and knocked out a tough Rays team in the Division Series.
Bloom said afterward that the Sox were “ahead of schedule” as far as competing for championship.
That’s not a problem now.