The Red Sox’ Reality-Based Front Office strategy is turning our heads. First of all, we tip our caps to them for getting all the basics right. Cherington and company acknowledged that a team with 48-60 Pythagorean record is a bad team and that they should be selling all their impending free agents. They did so by unloading Lester, Lackey, and Miller today. They understand the value in building a deep farm system in an era where young stars are getting locked up to long term extensions. To that end they somehow managed to unload a middle reliever in Andrew Miller for the Orioles’ #3 prospect, Eduardo Rodriguez (#65 on Baseball America’s preseason top 100 list). Kudos to Cherington not only for pulling off a great deal, but for overcoming the ridiculous and self-defeating taboo against trading within your own division. The Red Sox make their farm system better, and in doing so, they weaken the farm system of a division rival.

The Miller trade is a great example of a classic rebuild-for-the-future deal. In the Lester and Lackey deals, the Red Sox are pioneering a next level approach to selling at the trade deadline. By acquiring Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, and Joe Kelly, Boston has reloaded with players who are sure to help them compete next year. They address their glaring need for an outfielder by adding Cespedes’ strong bat and Go-Go-Gadget Arm, giving them a solidly above average player on a below market contract. They also address both their rotation and lineup depth by adding two more players in Kelly and Craig who project to be around league average next year, have some upside from there, and are under team control for years to come. They accomplish all this before having to commit any of their budget on the free agent market.

Compare this to your third-place New York Yankees. After wasting an immense opportunity to move an incomparably valuable trade chip in Cano last year, the Yankees will once again chart a course to a mediocre future by holding on to eminently tradeable assets Hiroki Kuroda and David Robertson. They once again will walk the middle course of trying to eke out a playoff appearance with an unexceptional team, neither going all in this year nor making sure next year will be better. We acknowledge that the decision to sell is much easier for Boston, as their actual W-L record puts them well out of the race. But, the Yankees’ expected W-L record (50-57) reveals that their team is in the same class as the Sox in terms of actual prowess. Look at the Rays- a better team than the Yankees (54-54 xW-L), who have about the same shot at sneaking into the playoffs. This expertly run franchise has taken a totally different tack- selling the league’s best pitcher for a young pitcher that will immediately help out next year and beyond, plus a top young prospect with years of team control. The Yankees, conversely, will be entirely dependent on a grim free market to fill huge gaps in their roster. Meanwhile the A’s, with less than half the Yankees budget, manage to compete year after year and now are going for it all with the league’s best team.

These franchises are universally respected among both SABR nerds and the old guard. They get impressive results in the standings and are all poised for a serious championship run in the near future. It can’t be ignored that they are doing things very differently than the Yankees. The closest analog to the Yankees strategy- keeping the embers of playoff hopes stoked by trading your near and long term future, and acquiring just enough now players to remain World Series long shots- is probably the Kansas City Royals. A sad, sad sentiment.