Just when it appeared ace Chris Sale would be terrorizing the NL East for at least the next three years, the Boston Red Sox swooped in to land the Chicago White Sox's 27-year-old hurler in a blockbuster trade.
Before the trade was agreed upon, it appeared Sale was destined to be shipped to the Washington Nationals.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 6, 2016
Pairing the five-time All-Star with Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello to create one of the most potent pitching trios in recent memory came at a price though: four prospects, including blue-chippers Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.
The 21-year-old Moncada was Baseball America's top prospect in their 2016 midseason rankings and is supposedly able to play shortstop, second base, third base, and outfield. Though he struggled in his brief 20-plate-appearance stint in the majors last season, he did so after raking in Single-A and Double-A, hitting .294/.407/.511 with 15 home runs and 45 stolen bases in only 106 games, and skipping Triple-A altogether.
Kopech is a 20-year-old fireballer who struck out 14.2 batters per nine innings in Single-A with a 2.25 ERA. He was No. 93 on Baseball America's midseason list.
The other two prospects headed to the White Sox are outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz, players with some upside but less projectable futures.
Along with a trade for breakout Milwaukee Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg, that's two big moves to improve the Red Sox pitching staff—which already owned the third-best ERA in the American League last season—to try and catch the American League champion Cleveland Indians.
Boston still has work to do this offseason if they'd like to be crowned the preason favorites out of the AL. Though they gained Thornburg, the bullpen will likely suffer the loss of three effective relievers to free agency: Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, and Junichi Tazawa.
And while they ranked first in runs, hits, average, on-base percentage, and slugging last season, there'll be a David Ortiz-shaped hole in the offense next season despite probable growth from young stars Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts.
But if they end up biting the bullet to surpass the $195 million luxury tax threshold and spend on mashing free-agent DH Edwin Encarnacion of the Toronto Blue Jays, though, it'd be a different story.