The Red Sox are on the verge of doing something that hasn't happened to the franchise since nearly a century ago. Even if the record doesn't look nearly as bad as one would expect for a last-place team, the Red Sox have finished in the basement in back-to-back seasons nonetheless. As things stand, many people believe they are ticketed for a third straight last-place finish. 

This hasn't happened to the Red Sox since 1930, when they completed their sixth straight last-place finish in the entire AL (eight teams). It was the eighth time in nine seasons, too. 

This bunch of Red Sox isn't in dire straits the way that group was, but this is a fan base very understandably expecting to be in the championship picture every year. An awful lot of things have to go very right this season for that to happen. 

Win total projection, odds

  • 2023 record: 78-84 (fifth place in AL East)
  • 2024 SportsLine win total over/under: 79.5
  • World Series odds (via SportsLine): +5000

Projected lineup

  1. Jarren Duran, CF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Triston Casas, 1B
  4. Trevor Story, SS
  5. Masataka Yoshida, DH
  6. Tyler O'Neill, LF
  7. Wilyer Abreu, RF
  8. Vaughn Grissom, 2B
  9. Connor Wong, C

Of note here is that Duran, Devers, Casas, Yoshida and Abreu all swing left-handed. Right-handed swinging Bobby Dalbec and Rob Refsnyder will find their way into the lineup against tough lefties. Keep an eye out for youngster Ceddanne Rafaela, too. 

Projected rotation

  1. RHP Lucas Giolito
  2. RHP Brayan Bello
  3. RHP Nick Pivetta
  4. RHP Tanner Houck
  5. RHP Kutter Crawford

If they want a lefty at some point, look for Chris Murphy and/or Brandon Walter to get the nod(s). 

NOTE: A day after this was published, news broke that Giolito has a partially torn UCL and might miss the season.

Projected bullpen

Keep in mind that Liam Hendriks is around, though it's possible we won't see him throw a pitch this season; he's coming off Tommy John surgery in early August. If he can work back into form with the Red Sox in contention late in the season, that would be an X-factor. 

New front office leadership

In October 2019, the Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom to run baseball operations. This was about one year after the dominant 2018 Red Sox won the World Series without ever having really been challenged in the playoffs. Bloom lasted until Sept. 14 last season, with the Red Sox compiling a record of 267-262 during his tenure. There was a trip to the ALCS in there, but it was generally pretty unsuccessful. It could be argued there were payroll constraints by ownership as a contributing factor, but the bottom line was the franchise as a whole just didn't really move forward under Bloom. 

Former lefty reliever Craig Breslow -- who was actually on the World Series-winning 2013 Red Sox -- is now the chief baseball officer. He was with the Cubs' organization from 2019 until being hired by the Red Sox, which means he was part of the group tasked with the difficult job of moving past all the 2016 players and building a new group that contended last season. It wasn't a meteoric rise or anything, but there was definite progress with the rebuild-on-the-fly (the Rizzo-Bryant-Baez group was traded at the 2021 deadline and the 2023 Cubs improved by nine wins). 

So far, Breslow hasn't made many big-splash moves at the big-league level. He acquired O'Neill and Grissom via trade and signed Giolito to essentially a pillow contract. This suggests Breslow isn't in the mode of aggressively diving in immediately and throwing money around, but instead is looking to build a foundation.

That could always change if this group overachieves. As a former player, Breslow surely would love to push for quick contention if it's called for. 

The reality, though, is the Red Sox are more likely to fall out of the race than contend. If they do, Giolito is tradeable (again, note that now Giolito is injured), just as other veterans who can hit free agency after 2024 would be, such as Jansen, Martin, O'Neill and Pivetta. If Breslow gets the chance to spin all these players, he can start molding the farm system how he sees fit before spending the offseason shoring up the big-league roster. 

Offensive upside

Few expect the Red Sox as a team to pitch well. Obviously it's possible that Giolito makes it back to his All-Star form while there's intrigue with Bello, Crawford and maybe even Houck, but where this team can move the needle is with the bats. 

  • Duran hit .295/.346/.482 (121 OPS+) in his first foray to anything resembling regular playing time last season at age 26. He can build off that. 
  • Devers is a star, capable of putting up MVP numbers.
  • Casas was just 23 years old last season. He hit 24 homers in 429 at-bats with a 129 OPS+. 
  • Story came back late in his return from Tommy John surgery and wasn't good. He's still in prime years at age 31 and had a 114 OPS+ from 2016-20. He's capable of big numbers in Fenway, even if it isn't Coors. 
  • Yoshida hit .289 with a low strikeout rate in his first year stateside. He struggled in the second half as the league adjusted to him, but it's time for the ol' adjust-to-the-adjustments maneuver. 
  • O'Neill only got close to full-time at-bats in St. Louis in 2021 and he clubbed 34 homers with a 148 OPS+. He's finally free to play everyday. What if he goes crazy? It's not out of the realm of possibility. 
  • Abreu debuted last season and played in 32 games. He hit .316/.388/.474. Cool! 

If you're gonna be the fan of a bad or even simply subpar team, the more entertaining route is to bash the baseball while having a bad pitching staff instead of watching your team lose 1-0 or 2-1 every night. At least the Red Sox fans have hope for the slugfest type of losing team. 

What would make for a successful season?

I much prefer talking about a team winning now than the process of building. This means a successful season is the entire offense performs as I suggested it could above in addition to the arms in the rotation posting career years. If that's the case, the Red Sox make the playoffs and who knows what Breslow is able to pull off around the deadline for potentially top-flight starting pitching. So, sure, if everything breaks right, the Red Sox could win the World Series. Remember, an 84-win team went there last year. 

More likely, though, the Red Sox finish last and don't contend. In this more realistic scenario, a successful season could be attained by seeing growth from the youngsters and getting good hauls in exchange for the vets Breslow trades away.