John Tomase

Chaim Bloom's vision for Red Sox is suddenly coming into sharp focus

The Red Sox are on a roll, and they have their young talent to thank.

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Chaim Bloom sounded pleadingly desperate at Winter Weekend when he tried to explain why the team had traded Mookie Betts but retained Rafael Devers. Betts wasn't surrounded by enough young talent, Bloom argued, but Devers would be.

"You guys know that," he pandered, to considerable boos.

Fast forward six months, however, and Bloom's vision suddenly appears a lot clearer. The Red Sox remain a last-place team, but probably not for much longer, since they're visiting the Oakland Triple-A's for three games and the Yankees are in an uncontrolled descent.

The battered starting rotation needs help lest the levee break, but otherwise the team suddenly resembles the one Bloom promised -- young, dynamic, balanced, talented.

The Sox whupped the Cubs 11-5 on Sunday to win another series behind a grand slam from Masataka Yoshida and one-hit pitching from overlooked starter Kutter Crawford. With their 10th win in 12 games, the Red Sox improved to 50-44, tied with the Yankees for fourth place in the AL East.

They're only two games behind the Astros for the third and final wild card spot, and more importantly, they have no one else to leapfrog. A playoff berth, which felt like a fantasy after the Marlins swept the Red Sox at home at the end of June, is now legitimately within reach.

And for that, the Red Sox have exactly the kind of players to thank that Bloom envisioned building around all along.

Atop the lineup, right fielder Alex Verdugo has become a solid everyday regular and borderline All-Star. The Red Sox are never going to win the Mookie Betts trade, but it doesn't have to go down as a first-round KO, either. Between Verdugo's emergence and Connor Wong's rocket arm behind the plate, the Red Sox are finally seeing a return on that investment.

Their best player, though, has probably been outfielder Jarren Duran, whom most of us had already written off. He has fixed his swing by raising his hands, and now he's a threat to record a hustle double every time he steps into the box. A case can be made that no player has had a greater impact on reversing the team's fortunes than Duran, who could make slugging outfielder Adam Duvall expendable at the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

Also in the outfield, Yoshida has made a winner out of the scouts and execs who fought for the Red Sox to sign him, convinced that he'd hit for power and average in the big leagues. Yoshida's $90 million contract suddenly looks perfectly reasonable as he hammers fastballs and makes a run at the batting title.

A stealth contributor over the last month has been first baseman Triston Casas. The slugging rookie started slowly, but his results are finally catching up to his batted-ball data, as evidenced by homers in three straight games at Wrigley Field this weekend. Casas hits the ball as consistently hard as anyone on the team.

The exception would be Devers, who's finally catching fire. Since the start of July, Devers is batting .395 with four homers and 12 RBIs. Bloom bet on him as a centerpiece for a reason, and he's finally showing it.

Add solid production from veterans like Justin Turner and Rob Refsnyder, as well as the expected return of All-Star shortstop Trevor Story next month, and there's suddenly legitimate reason to believe the Red Sox will make the playoffs.

If they do, the chief baseball officer's moves will be a large reason why. Maybe some of you knew it all along, but those of us who doubted his vision are finally starting to see where he was going.

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