John Tomase

Breaking down Chris Sale trade, an important step for Craig Breslow

Breslow sent an important message with the biggest move of his Red Sox tenure to date.

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Now we're talking.

A slow-moving Red Sox offseason gathered some momentum on Saturday with the news that former ace Chris Sale has been traded to the Braves for young infielder Vaughn Grissom.

This deal, long overdue, rids the Red Sox of their most unreliable player, a pitcher they would've had no choice to rely on for a spot in their rotation due to his salary, even though the last five years have taught us he simply wouldn't be able to stay healthy.

It's a bittersweet moment because Sale wasn't just a guy cashing his checks, but a legitimate leader whose body simply failed him. In any event, it was time to move on, and chief baseball officer Craig Breslow didn't merely subtract a problem, he replaced him with a potential solution.

Red Sox fans may recognize Grissom, a 22-year-old who made his big-league debut at Fenway in August of 2022 and promptly homered off Darwinzon Hernandez in his first game.

The 11th-round pick looked like yet another find for the Atlanta player development machine after posting a .792 OPS in 41 games, but given the chance to win the starting shortstop job last spring, he instead lost it to Orlando Arcia and spent most of the season at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he hit .330.

Grissom immediately becomes Boston's starting second baseman, with a chance to stick for the long haul. At 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds, he is projected to add power to an advanced approach at the plate that includes a lifetime .320 average in the minors.

While he profiles as a second baseman capable of delivering league-average defense, he did play some short in Atlanta. He gives the Red Sox a second baseman with legitimate potential.

Coming on the heels of a free-agent deal with right-hander Lucas Giolito, the trade marks a first step from chief baseball officer Craig Breslow towards a guarantee that he'd be bold in reshaping the roster. For all of Sale's greatness early in his Red Sox tenure, which included a 300-strikeout season and recording the final out of the 2018 World Series, his five-year, $145 million contract extension goes down as one of the worst in franchise history.

It flummoxed Breslow's predecessor, Chaim Bloom, who reportedly passed on a chance to deal it away, but never properly accounted for Sale's unreliability when building his rotations. As recently as last year, the Red Sox entered spring training still hoping Sale could be their No. 1 starter. He instead threw barely 100 innings, including just 3.2 between May 26 and Aug. 11.

Breslow tackled the problem head on, realizing the Red Sox didn't have the leeway to hope that Sale found his form. He was a luxury they simply couldn't afford, whereas the Braves, coming off back-to-back 100-win seasons, might be the perfect landing spot.

Even if Sale wins 20 games this year, it's still the right move for this current Red Sox team, because it allows Breslow to build a rotation with one fewer question mark of the giant, skinny variety. The fact that Breslow added a former top prospect with some big-league success and high upside makes this exactly the kind of deal the Red Sox hired him to consummate.

Now he just needs, oh, half a dozen more. But in removing Sale, he sends the message that waiting around for low-probability best-case scenarios is no way to run a team.

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