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Red Sox trade Kiké Hernandez to the Dodgers for a pair of minor league pitchers

Kiké Hernandez started for a stretch at shortstop for the Red Sox, but struggled.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Kiké Hernández, a central part of the Red Sox over the last three seasons, has been traded back to the Dodgers — the team with whom he spent six years before coming to Boston.

The Sox sent Hernández back to Los Angeles in exchange for a pair of Triple A relievers. The Red Sox also sent $2.5 million to the Dodgers in the deal, the majority of the remaining roughly $3.6 million that Hernández will be paid this year.

“This guy in 2½ years became really important to us around here and a guy who embraces everything that the Boston baseball experience has to offer,” said Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. “We’ll miss him and we appreciate everything he contributed.”

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The move came as Hernández — who joined the Sox on a two-year, $14 million deal prior to the 2021 season, then re-signed last September on a one-year, $10 million deal — rapidly went from a key contributor to an odd man out in a logjam for playing time.

After opening the year as the team’s shortstop, Hernández hit .222/.279/.320 this season, and his defensive struggles — 14 errors at short, including 12 throwing errors — led him to lose his job as the everyday shortstop in early June.

“This hasn’t been the season that he envisioned for himself or certainly that we envisioned for him,” said Bloom. “I feel pretty confident that he’s a better player than this, that Kiké is not done being a good big league player in his early 30s.”

Hernández, who spent 2014-20 in a super-utility role with the Dodgers, was signed to play second when he joined the Sox in 2021. But he ended up moving to center field, where he delivered elite defense and emerged in the second half of the season as one of the more productive leadoff hitters in baseball, helping the Sox to reach the postseason. That October, Hernández was a force, hitting .408/.423/.837 with five homers in 11 games to help propel the Sox to the ALCS.

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“It was one of the more remarkable things that I’ve seen a single player do for an extended period of time on a baseball field,” said Bloom.

But he proved unable to sustain that remarkable performance in 2022, instead struggling while dealing with a psoas muscle strain that severely limited his ability to run and hit. He hit .222/.291/.338 last year. Still, the Sox re-signed Hernández with the belief that he was a prime bounce-back candidate whose positional versatility would help the team build toward 2023.

The departure of Xander Bogaerts and injury to Trevor Story forced Hernández to open the year as the team’s everyday shortstop, but he proved unable to meet the challenge.

His ongoing offensive struggles led to a steadily diminishing role, and with the Sox activating middle infielder Pablo Reyes from the injured list on Monday, the Sox had a middle infield crowd of primary shortstop Yu Chang, Hernández, Reyes, and Christian Arroyo, with Story nearing a return. The Sox cleared the logjam by trading Hernández.

While the move wasn’t shocking given his production (or lack thereof) this year, Hernández still had a significant role in the Sox clubhouse. He’d been a central part of the team’s offseason recruiting efforts of free agents, particularly with former Dodgers teammates Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen.

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While the Red Sox clubhouse was open, several players wore yellow City Connect Hernández tank tops that had been given away as a recent Red Sox promotion. Turner tweeted three crying emojis as the news disseminated.

In exchange for Hernández, the Sox received righthanders Justin Hagenman and Nick Robertson.

Robertson — who is on the 40-man roster — had a 2.54 ERA with a 38 percent strikeout rate and 8 percent walk rate in Triple A, posting huge swing-and-miss numbers with high groundball rates for Oklahoma City. The 25-year-old also had a 6.10 ERA with 13 strikeouts and four walks in 10⅓ big league innings with the Dodgers this year. He leans on a mid-90s four-seam fastball and changeup, while also possessing a slider.

“Definitely a guy who you can envision helping us here in the very near future,” said Bloom.

Hagenman, 26, had a 2.78 ERA with a 27 percent strikeout rate and minuscule 5 percent walk rate for Oklahoma City. He’s a sinker/slider pitcher who works in the low-90s with his sinker as well as a four-seamer. He also throws a changeup, and has been used in a variety of roles — reliever, multi-inning reliever, and starter.

The move came a little more than a week before the trade deadline. With the Sox playing well but still on the outside looking in at a potential playoff berth, Bloom suggested the Sox would look to add to their major league roster, scouring the market for pitchers with a strong preference to add players who will be under team control beyond 2023.

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“When you’re in the position we’re in now and you start selling out for rentals, that often doesn’t go well,” said Bloom.

But he didn’t rule out any form of moves, whether trading for rentals who will become free agents after 2023 or even dealing from the current roster.

“Our North Star is just . . . continuing to build our core,” said Bloom. Those are going to be the most attractive opportunities for us. And that’s going to be something that we use as basically kind of a lens through which we’ll look at anything that we could do. There’s a lot of different things that could fit into that.

“Obviously, we want to make this group as strong as we can, if we can add more core contributors, that’s something we’d love to do. But as far as what shape that takes over those 165 hours, I don’t know yet.”

What is clear, however, is that the Sox will move forward without Hernández.



Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him @alexspeier.