An extraordinary season and team now will yield to change. It's part of the gig, an inevitability of how team-building and roster management works in the era of free agency, even for a Red Sox team that in 2013 proved one that seemed to fit together so seamlessly both on and off the field, with a striking number of players performing at something approximating the peak of their abilities.
General manager Ben Cherington often stated a goal last offseason of working toward the construction of "the next great Red Sox team." It arrived a bit sooner than expected.
"The 2013 Red Sox team is great," Cherington said. "It doesn’t mean the work stops. There’s still things we need to do to get better and ways that I can be better and the organization can get stronger. But they won their last game of the postseason, so this team is great for 2013."
Here is a look at the 25 players who comprised the roster for each of the three rounds of the playoffs en route to a title, with an examination of how they ended up with the Sox. The championship roster was built with nine major league free agents, six players acquired in trades, six draftees, three players who were signed as international amateur free agents and one player who was purchased from an independent league.
Jon Lester: Drafted second round June 4, 2002, signed Aug. 13, 2002
Key contribution: One of the most dominant postseason starters of all time (1.97 ERA in 11 starts, the third best mark as a starter of any pitcher with 10 or more career playoff starts) had one of the best single playoff runs ever. Lester's 1.56 ERA was the sixth best in postseason history by a pitcher with five or more starts. He is one of 16 pitchers ever with four wins in a single postseason. That followed his a regular season in which Lester went 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA, including a 7-2 record and 2.57 ERA after the All-Star break that reconnected the left-hander to his status as one of the top starters in the American League since 2008.
Put it all together and you have the sort of anchor who would be hard to replace. The idea that the Sox will pick up his $13 million option is now a no-brainer, but given his track record of health and the team's view of where he is in his career, as well as Lester's frequently stated desire to spend the rest of his career with the Sox, the timing for a discussion of an extension (albeit at considerable cost) would seem ripe this winter.
David Ortiz: Signed as free agent Jan. 22, 2003 (following release by Twins)
Key contribution: Take your pick. The World Series MVP further cemented his place as one of the greatest playoff performers of all time, hitting .353 with a .500 OBP, .706 slugging mark and five homers in the playoffs, including a .688/.760/1.188 line in the World Series. He delivered perhaps the signature moments of the Sox' postseason: The game-tying grand slam that deposited good friend Torii Hunter of the Tigers into the Red Sox bullpen in Game 2 of the ALCS (a contest that, had the Sox lost, would have left them trailing in the best-of-seven series, 2-0) and an unscripted speech during Game 4 of the World Series after which the Sox outscored the Cardinals, 14-3. His monumental postseason followed a regular season in which he was likewise the Sox' most dominant hitter, with a .309/.395/.564 with 30 homers and 103 RBIs.
Dustin Pedroia: Drafted second round June 7, 2004, signed July 21, 2004
Key contribution: In a season that he nearly sabotaged on Opening Day by tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb while diving headfirst into first base, Pedroia still managed to be a consummate table-setter -- hitting .301 with a .372 OBP -- while playing elite defense that merited a Gold Glove and remaining healthy enough to play a team-leading 160 games in the regular season. He continued to deliver game-changing defense in the playoffs, a notion best embodied by the fact that the Sox turned 18 double plays (third most ever in a postseason) in the playoffs.
Felix Doubront: Signed as international amateur free agent May 13, 2005
Key contribution: For a span of roughly half a season, he started to emerge as a standout in the Sox rotation, with a 2.55 ERA over 15 starts from May 16 to August 4. However, he surrounded that with a slow start and a struggle at the end of the regular season, both of which were attributed in large part to the pitcher's inability to follow a proper offseason workout protocol. Even so, Doubront ended up making substantial contributions out of the bullpen in four postseason contests, particularly in the World Series when he made back-to-back multi-inning relief appearances in Games 3 and 4, earning the win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the Sox' series-changing 4-2 win.
Clay Buchholz: Drafted June 7, 2005, signed June 23, 2005
Key contribution: Limited to 16 starts by inflammation in his right shoulder that cost him half a season, Buchholz had the second-best ERA ever by a Sox pitcher who logged at least 100 innings, forging a 1.74 mark while going 12-1 and earning an All-Star berth. He didn't claim a decision in four postseason starts, but his last start of the year was a critical one, as he took to the mound while limited by a lat injury he'd suffered in the ALCS and tossed four innings in which he gave up just one unearned run before being replaced by a pinch-hitter in Game 5 of the World Series, a 4-2 Sox win.
Jacoby Ellsbury: Drafted June 7, 2005, signed July 1, 2005
Key contribution: If Ellsbury, who burst onto the scene in 2007 by helping the Sox win a championship, leaves the Red Sox as a free agent this winter, then he'll have bookended his time in Boston with a pair of World Series victories. He once again showed the ability to impact the game in far-reaching fashion in 2013, overcoming a slow start to hit .326 with a .379 OBP and .473 slugging mark from late-May through the end of the year. Despite missing three weeks with a broken foot in September, he still led the AL in steals, proved a dynamic leadoff hitter and played tremendous outfield defense. He returned to the field in the postseason at a time when his foot was still healing and hit .344 with a .408 OBP, notching three three-hit games and at times creating havoc, particularly in the ALDS against the Rays where he was 9-for-18 with a .526 OBP.
Will Middlebrooks: Drafted June 7, 2007, signed Aug. 15, 2007
Key contribution: In an up-and-down year, Middlebrooks still had some memorable moments, including a three-homer game against the Blue Jays on April 7 and a hot stretch in late-August and early-September that coincided with a period when the Sox pulled away from the competition in the AL East. While he ended up struggling in the playoffs and conceding the starting third base role to Xander Bogaerts mid-way through October, he did play a key role in what was arguably the Sox' most important rally of the playoffs, delivering a one-out double in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS to set in motion a four-run rally that brought the Sox back from a 5-1 deficit
Daniel Nava: Purchased (from Golden Baseball League) Jan. 17, 2008
Key contribution: The former indy leaguer added to his improbable career story by finishing eighth in the American League with a .302 average and fifth with a .385 OBP in the regular season. Despite sporadic playing time in the postseason, he delivered his characteristic high pitch-count at-bats when he did have opportunities to play, helping the Sox to wear down their opponents. His most meaningful moment, however, may have come back on April 20, when he contributed what one could argue to have been the biggest hit in one of the biggest (and certainly the most emotional) wins of the regular season, launching a three-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning that allowed the Sox to claim a 4-3 win in the first game in Boston following the man-hunt and region-wide lockdown that led to the capture of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
Junichi Tazawa: Signed as international amateur free agent Dec. 4, 2008
Key contribution: Tazawa was a workhorse during the regular season, making 71 appearances while forging a 3.16 ERA and striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings, but he made a huge mark in the postseason, pitching in 13 of the Sox' 15 games while being asked to take care of the opponents' most impactful right-handed hitters. By and large, he did that, allowing just one earned run in 7 1/3 innings. Most notably, he was asked time and again to shut down Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, and he did just that, most memorably in Game 3 of the ALCS when he punched out the slugger with a fastball down and away with runners on the corners and one out. Tazawa also claimed a victory in Game 6 of the ALCS, when he got Cabrera on an inning-ending groundout to short prior to a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the seventh.
Xander Bogaerts: Signed as international amateur free agent Aug. 23, 2009
Key contribution: Bogaerts, who turned 21 just before the start of the playoffs, offered a compelling vision of the future during a postseason where he delivered consistently dazzling at-bats against a series of top pitchers. His maturity at the plate was little short of remarkable, a trait that was first in evidence when he walked twice as a late-innings substation in Game 4 (the clincher) of the American League Division Series, scoring the game-winning run, and again in Game 6 of the ALCS, when he had the Sox' best at-bats against Max Scherzer of the Tigers, walking twice and slamming a double to play a key role in the Red Sox' 5-2 series clinching win. He walked six times during the playoffs (third-most ever by a player 21 or younger) and found himself in the company of players like Miguel Cabrera and Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio and Jimmie Foxx and Andruw Jones for the offensive impact he made at such a young age, as he wrapped up the postseason hitting .296/.412/.481.
John Lackey: Signed as free agent Dec. 14, 2009
Key contribution: In a striking reversal of his tumultuous first three years in Boston, during which Lackey became a lightning rod for criticism of the team in 2010 and 2011 and missed the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the right-hander not only returned to pitch at a high level in the regular season (a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts) but also delivered a pair of key postseason starts. Foremost, his 6 2/3 shutout innings with eight strikeouts in Game 3 of the ALCS led the Sox to a 1-0 victory over Justin Verlander and the Tigers in a series where the Sox' margin for error was nonexistent. Then, Lackey punctuated his resurgence with 6 2/3 innings in which he allowed one run in Game 6 of the World Series, in the process becoming the first pitcher ever to win World Series-clinching starts for two different teams, having also accomplished the feat in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series with the Angels.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Acquired from Rangers for Roman Mendez, Chris McGuinness and Michael Thomas July 31, 2010
Key contribution: Saltalamacchia emerged as a frontline catcher for a playoff team in 2013, fulfilling much of the promise that had greeted his arrival to the majors in 2007. He hit .273 with a .338 OBP and .466 slugging mark, setting a Red Sox team record for doubles (40) by a catcher during the regular season and emerging as a trusted presence behind the plate. His offensive struggles in the playoffs opened the door for David Ross to catch the final games of the World Series, but Saltalamacchia did have a memorable impact during the playoffs, delivering the walkoff hit that completed a postseason-changing 6-5 comeback victory for the Sox in Game 2 of the ALCS.
Brandon Workman: Drafted second round June 7, 2010, signed Aug. 15, 2010
Key contribution: At a time when Clay Buchholz was injured, Workman stabilized the Red Sox rotation with three outstanding starts in July, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning in the first of those while forging a 2.45 ERA. He moved to the bullpen for the rest of the year, and in the postseason, Workman didn't allow an earned run in 8 2/3 innings spanning seven appearances, mostly in middle relief. He delivered strong work in the victories that ended the ALCS (1 2/3 shutout innings) and World Series (perfect eighth). Like Bogaerts, he represents a significant part of the Sox' future.
Franklin Morales: Acquired from Rockies for cash May 19, 2011
Key contribution: Morales claimed the win in one of the wildest Red Sox games of the regular season, posting two zeros in the final two frames of a 10-8, 14-inning win in Tampa Bay on June 10.
Craig Breslow: Acquired from Diamondbacks for Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik, July 31, 2012
Key contribution: Though the start of his year was delayed slightly by soreness in his shoulder, he emerged as the team's second-most important bullpen member behind only Koji Uehara. In 61 regular season appearances, he had a 5-2 record and 1.81 ERA, permitting a run in just one of his last 28 appearances of the regular season (0.35 ERA). He was a central part of the Sox' late-innings success in the first two rounds of the playoffs, with seven shutout innings spanning seven games in the ALDS and ALCS. The left-hander submitted a particularly memorable performance in the ALDS-clinching Game 4 victory against the Rays, striking out four straight Rays while working 1 2/3 innings to secure the victory.
David Ross: Signed as free agent Nov. 14, 2012
Key contribution: A promising start to the season (including a 4-for-4 performance with two homers on April 26) was derailed by a pair of concussions, but the veteran catcher displayed the skills that led the Sox to make him their first free-agent acquisition of the pivotal 2012-13 offseason during the playoffs. Ross made seven starts, with the Sox winning six of them while holding opponents to an average of 1.86 runs per game. He also delivered a pivotal hit in Game 5 of the World Series, an RBI double against Adam Wainwright to give the Sox a 2-1 lead en route to a 3-1 victory.
Jonny Gomes: Signed as free agent Dec. 1, 2012
Key contribution: Gomes was more than just a military helmet. The 32-year-old hit .247 with a .344 OBP and .426 slugging mark along with 13 homers in 116 games during the regular season, emerging as a clubhouse leader despite a part-time role thanks to the intensity of his baseball acumen and all-out style of play that was perhaps best embodied in a tone-setting victory on Opening Day in New York, when he scored from second on an infield single. Manager John Farrell rode a hunch in opting to make him the team's primary starter during the postseason, feeling that the outfielder's makeup would permit him to deliver game-changing plays at pivotal times. Gomes ended up delivering some key moments, most notably starting the game-winning rally in Game 6 of the ALCS with a double high off the Wall against Tigers ace Max Scherzer and in Game 4 of the World Series, when he clubbed the game-winning three-run homer against right-hander Seth Maness in a 4-2 win. The Sox were 10-1 in Gomes' playoff starts.
Shane Victorino: Signed as free agent Dec. 13, 2012
Key contribution: Victorino ended up defying those who questioned the wisdom of the three-year deal to which the Sox signed him, delivering considerable offensive impact at the top of the order (.294/.351/.451 with 15 homers and 21 steals -- numbers that were particularly impressive given that injuries forced him to hit exclusively from the right side for the first time in more than a decade) while earning a Gold Glove for his outstanding play in right field. In the postseason, Victorino delivered the game-winning hits (batting right-handed against right-handed pitchers, no less) in each of the Sox' three clinching games: A two-out infield single against Joel Peralta in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the ALDS to give the Sox a 2-1 lead in an eventual 3-1 win; a grand slam in the seventh inning of Game 6 of the ALCS to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 win; and a three-run double in the third inning of Game 6 of the World Series to give the Sox a 3-0 advantage en route to their 6-1 victory. He became the first player ever to deliver the game-winning RBI in three postseason clinchers in one year.
Koji Uehara: Signed as free agent Dec. 18, 2012
Key contribution: Where to begin? The Red Sox viewed Uehara as a pitcher with the ability to dominate so long as his workload was managed properly when they signed him to a one-year, $4.25 million deal in the offseason. He defied the notion of his fragility by emerging -- after the season-ending injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey -- as a closer who grew stronger with usage, delivering a 1.09 ERA in 74 1/3 innings while becoming the first pitcher in major league history with more than 100 strikeouts (101, to be exact) and fewer than 10 walks (9). In the playoffs, he won the ALCS MVP by recording a win and three saves, he tied a postseason record with seven saves, he set a record for most playoff strikeouts by a pitcher (16) who did not issue a walk and, after forging a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings, he was the pitcher who, appropriately enough, delivered the final out of the season, punching out Matt Carpenter to conclude the Sox' worst-to-first run.
Ryan Dempster: Signed as free agent Dec. 19, 2012
Key contribution: While Dempster wrapped up the year with an 8-9 record and 4.57 ERA, those marks do not reflect fully his importance in the Sox' strong start. He was a rotation anchor for almost all of the first half, a steady source of six innings at a time for the season's first three months, serving as a solid back-of-the-rotation presence. While his participation in the postseason was limited to three one-inning appearances in which the right-hander allowed a run, the 16-year veteran took incredible pleasure in being a part of his first run to the title. As such, it may have been fitting that Dempster became, unofficially, the last Red Sox pitcher on the mound in 2013, having stayed long after the World Series celebration to lob pitches to friends in the early-morning hours following the conclusion of the Sox' title run.
Stephen Drew: Signed as free agent Dec. 26, 2012
Key contribution: Though he started slowly after suffering a concussion in spring training, from May 1 through the end of the year, Drew was one of the better two-way shortstops in the majors, hitting .267 with a .342 OBP and .469 slugging mark while hitting 13 homers in 108 games and playing tremendous defense at shortstop. In the postseason, he ignored an epic slump at the plate (he was 5-for-50 through his first 15 postseason games) through his first 15 games to play brilliant defense, delivering numerous game-changing plays that helped to anchor what proved a Sox postseason run that was led primarily by outstanding run prevention.
Mike Napoli: Signed as free agent Jan. 22, 2013
Key contribution: After a free agent odyssey that required nearly two months to resolve once a degenerative hip condition was identified in what was supposed to be a routine physical, Napoli, true to his career, proved streaky, but with his hot spells coming at precisely the right moments for the Sox. He carried the load offensively through early June before tailing off for the middle months of the season and then getting hot again near the finish line. When locked in, he offered much-needed protection to David Ortiz in the middle of the order, particularly against the Yankees and Rays, opponents who Napoli pulverized with sufficient ferocity to claim a substantial role in defining the outcome of the AL East race. Napoli rode waves in the postseason as well, but he left a considerable mark on the ALCS, mashing a solo homer against Justin Verlander in Game 3 to give the Sox a pivotal 1-0 victory over the Tigers and launching another homer in Game 5 of the ALCS to allow the Sox to break through against starter Anibal Sanchez. In addition to delivering some thump, Napoli also emerged as an unexpectedly tremendous defensive first baseman in his first full season at the position.
Mike Carp: Acquired from Mariners for cash Feb. 20, 2013
Key contribution: Depth was a key element of the success of the 2013 Red Sox, and Carp became one of the symbols of that strength. He embraced his job as a role player and delivered a .296/.362/.523 line with nine homers in 86 games in the regular season, showing the ability to impact the game with an advanced all-fields offensive approach. His most memorable moment came on Sept. 11, when he essentially ended the AL East race by launching a 10th-inning, pinch-hit, first-pitch grand slam to straightaway center to give the Red Sox a 7-3 victory over the Rays.
Jake Peavy: Acquired from White Sox (via Tigers) for Jose Iglesias, Francellis Montas, J.B. Wendelken, Cleuluis Rondon July 30, 2013
Key contribution: Peavy delivered 10 solid starts after the Red Sox acquired him one day prior to the trade deadline, gong 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA. His most notable performance was something of a statement for both the pitcher and the right-hander, a complete-game, 8-1 victory over the Dodgers in Los Angeles on August 25. In the postseason, he made one start in each round, including an outstanding performance against the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS in which he mowed through 5 2/3 innings in which he allowed one run. He also rebounded from a rocky first inning in Game 3 of the World Series to manage the game and give the Sox a chance to come back.
Quintin Berry: Acquired from Royals for Clayton Mortensen Aug. 27, 2013
Acquired to be a pinch-running specialist who could change a game with his legs in the late innings, Berry had his most memorable contribution on Sept. 5, when he entered a game as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning, stole second against Mariano Rivera and then scored a game-tying run on a single by Drew. He was 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts in the postseason, improving to 29-for-29 on stolen base attempts in his big league career.