West Coast trips have not been kind to the Boston Red Sox of late. From 2007 to 2009, the Sox are a combined 17-32 when they head to the other side of the country. If this trend holds true, then they can expect three or four wins and six or seven losses on their upcoming ten game trip. And if that happens, they might find it's the end of their season.
It seems crazy. Even with seven losses, a .539 winning percentage wouldn't be all that bad--good enough to be competitive for the division title in two divisions and the National League Wild Card, and certainly within striking distance of three other divisions.
But the Red Sox play in the American League East, against the .637 Yankees and .604 Rays. Their payroll is high enough to make the ownership uncomfortable about putting more into risks in the bullpen if a doing so will only make the playoffs a slightly better gamble. And with Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez both playing the last year and expected to be Type A free agents, they have some pieces that could carry a blue chip price tag to other playoff teams.
Suddenly, these ten games leading up to the trade deadline carry so much more weight. It's a perfect test for Theo and the ownership to see just what the Red Sox will be this season: buyers, or sellers. As good as the Red Sox have the potential to be when healthy, should they fall seven or eight games back after 102 games, it would take an incredible level of play just to put the team in position to take over for the Rays or Yankees if they were to suddenly decline.
With the bullpen they have now, the Red Sox cannot compete in the playoffs. And so their task is not simply to survive this road trip, but to dominate it. To play well enough that they lose no ground on the Rays, or even gain it. Well enough to convince the front office that, with everyone healthy, the existing deficit can be overcome easily with just a little help. The Red Sox cannot sit quietly and wait for everyone to get healthy at the end of the road trip. They have to seize the initiative now. Win, or give up.