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Blockbuster trade brings lefty ace Chris Sale to Red Sox

OXON HILL, Md. — From across the field, Red Sox manager John Farrell has long admired the way Chris Sale pitched. The lefthander relentlessly goes after hitters, never backing down once he gets an edge.

On Tuesday, Farrell saw plenty of that from his boss. In what was a wild day of deal making, Dave Dombrowski may have set the Red Sox on course for another championship.

Dombrowski energized the Winter Meetings, obtaining Sale from the Chicago White Sox for four prospects, two of them budding stars in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.

The trade stamps the Red Sox as the team to beat in the American League for 2017 as Sale joins reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and David Price to form a potentially dominant rotation.


Dombrowski started the day by acquiring righthanded reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers for a package of players, led by infielder Travis Shaw. Then, after obtaining Sale, Dombrowski signed first baseman Mitch Moreland for one year and $5.5 million.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the Red Sox had become baseball’s version of the NBA’s star-studded Golden State Warriors.

“That was a wow,” he said.

That was the reaction of many Red Sox fans, too, as the deals kept coming. Dombrowski went from one transaction to another, a nine-hour flurry of activity.

“When he targets a guy, he gets him,” Farrell said. “There’s a lot to be said for his boldness, his aggressiveness. He’s not really worried about what the perception is. He’s most concerned with acquiring players that are going to allow us to win the most right now.”

Sale is a win-now player. The 27-year-old lefthander was 17-10 with a 3.34 earned run average in 32 starts last season. He has been one of the game’s most consistent and accomplished started since being moved out of the bullpen in 2012.


Watch: Dombrowski on dealing for Sale

“The ability to get a Chris Sale doesn’t come along very often,” Dombrowski said.

In the last five years, Sale is 70-47 with a 3.04 ERA and an average of 227 strikeouts. He made the All-Star team in each those seasons and finished between third and sixth in the Cy Young voting.

Only Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers has a lower ERA and more strikeouts than Sale in that time.

That the Red Sox were able to get Sale without surrendering any major league players was a surprise throughout the industry.

“We have been talking about [Sale] for probably a year,” Dombrowski said. “There was a lot of back and forth. The price changed over time.”

The Sox were peripherally involved until late last week when Chicago GM Rick Hahn agreed on prospects. Along with Moncada and Kopech, the Red Sox gave up two well-regarded Single A players, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and righthander Victor Diaz, also went to Chicago.

“We believe each of these players can be part of a quality core of future championship-caliber White Sox teams,” Hahn said.

Sale is under control for three years a bargain rate. He will be paid $12 million next season with the Red Sox holding options for 2018 ($12.5 million) and 2019 ($13.5 million).

Even with the additions Tuesday, the Sox should be able to maneuver their payroll to remain under the luxury tax threshold of $195 million. The average annual value of Sale’s contract is a modest $6.5 million.


Sale resides in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Red Sox conduct spring training. He was at his former school, Florida Gulf Coast University, when the trade was made.

Watch: Dan Shaughnessy on the Chris Sale trade

Sale is scheduled to comment on the trade via a conference call Wednesday morning.

“Chris was thrilled when I called him,” Farrell said. “I told him that we were, too.”

Moncada will have a unique place in Red Sox history. The team gave him a record-setting $31.5 million signing bonus in 2015 and paid an additional $31.5 million to Major League Baseball as a penalty for exceeding international signing limits.

A linebacker-sized infielder from Cuba with great speed, Moncada advanced to Double A Portland last season then was promoted to the majors in August and handed the third base job.

Moncada, 21, was 4 for 19 with 12 strikeouts and lost the job in less than a week. But if he refines his approach at the plate, the Cuban product could be a superstar.

“If he’s not a tremendous player I’ll be very surprised,” Dombrowski said. “But you have to give to get.”

Kopech, 20, was the best pitching prospect the Sox had. But he, too, had some red flags. Kopech was suspended 50 games in 2015 after testing positive for a stimulant. He broke his right hand last season during an altercation with a teammate during spring training.

The next move for the Red Sox could be dealing from their surplus of pitching. The addition of Sale gives the Sox seven starters. Clay Buchholz, Drew Pomeranz, and Steven Wright have relief experience but squeezing two of them into the bullpen could be difficult.


With Thornburg setting up Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have Fernando Abad, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, and Robbie Ross Jr. available. Only Barnes has minor league options.

“There’s really not room for seven starters. We’re pretty deep in that regard,” Dombrowski said. “We’ll at least be open-minded.”

Chris Sale's career statistics
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Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.