DENVER -- By the time Nick Punto got on the private plane Saturday afternoon, he still didn't truly understand all that was going on.
The infielder figured that since he had been ushered to Logan Airport to meet up with Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett for a cross-country trip, the trade involving the Red Sox and Dodgers had been completed, but no kind of punctuation had been put on the process.
So, while thousands of feet in the air, Punto decided to add his own.
"I was like, 'Should we do this?' Because we don't know. We're on our way to LA so more than likely the trade had gone through, but … We assumed," he said. "I'm sure it was just clerical work."
"This" was a photo taken on Punto's phone of the three players, which immediately was sent out in the Twitter-sphere for the world to see. "#dodgers doing it first class" was the caption accompanying the photo relayed via Punto's Twitter account @ShredderPunto.
The smiles and victory signs painted a picture of three players who were happy to be escaping the clutches of the Red Sox' 2012 season. That, Punto explained prior to his new team's game at Coors Field Monday night, wasn't entirely accurate.
"I think that's why we were laughing so hard because of my short little arms, trying to get all three of us in," he said. "The picture looks like we were so excited to be leaving, but we were laughing at me more than anything."
In fact, the plane -- belonging to the Guggenheim Partners (the Dodgers' ownership group) -- was filled with trepidation. In a matter of 20 hours, Beckett, Gonzalez, Punto and Carl Crawford (who was back home in Houston recovering from Tommy John surgery) had their world unexpectedly turned upside down thanks to one of the most notable trades in baseball history.
"There are a lot of emotions going through your head," Punto explained. "Nobody slept. We just sat there and kind of reflected. I got Josh to join Twitter at 10,000 feet. That was interesting."
To understand the whirlwind experienced by the group, it should be noted that when each came off from batting practice Friday afternoon their assumption was Gonzalez would still be a Red Sox through 2018, Crawford through '17 and Beckett at least until trade talk resurfaced in the offseason.
The players' awareness didn't truly start to gain momentum until after Gonzalez' conversation with his agent, John Boggs, just after batting practice. Then, about 6:30 p.m., the first baseman was told he had been taken out of the Red Sox' lineup. That's when reality set in.
"They took me out of the lineup at 6:30, and I would say 5 o'clock-ish is when my agent called and said there was a lot of chatter going and to keep my eyes and ears open," Gonzalez said. "I was just going to not pay any attention to it and go out and play the game.
"But after I was pulled from the lineup. … Talking to the guys who were getting ready to play the game. Pretty much everybody took the time to come over and say, 'Hey if we don't see you it was great,' and all that stuff. I just went up stairs and that's when Ben [Cherington] talked to each of us."
The teams' had gained enough movement in trade talks that, because Gonzalez was the centerpiece of the deal, the Red Sox had chosen to not risk injury. No deal was done, but the Sox couldn't take the risk.
Early in the game, Cherington talked to Gonzalez and Beckett in the clubhouse, explaining to each that the teams were in talks but there was no agreement in place. Meanwhile, Punto was still in the dugout, occasionally venturing up to get updates from Gonzalez while being fully prepared to play if called upon.
"I was on the lineup card so I was in the dugout ready to do whatever," Punto said. "Every few innings I would go check on Adrian because he was upstairs. My information was strictly from Adrian. Rumors are kind of circling about me, Crawford, Josh and Adrian, but I was really just trying to focus on that game."
As the Sox' game with the Royals concluded, Cherington had made progress in his talks with the Dodgers, managing a verbal agreement on the financial portion of the deal. That allowed to take the next step -- approaching Beckett and Crawford about waiving their no-trade clauses.
With Crawford in Houston, much of the communication went through the outfielder's agent, Brian Peters, while Beckett could be dealt with directly. The message from both players was that they wanted to sleep on the situation, leaving the trade incomplete heading into Saturday morning.
"The game ended and I just showered up and got out of there," Punto said. "I didn't know anything so I had nothing to give the media. Adrian wasn't there and Josh was gone. I just figured it was probably better to get out of there until something was finalized.
"I went to bed that night not knowing then I looked at my phone and there were messages from Adrian saying, 'I think it's done.' I don't think I heard from Ned Colletti until about 11 a.m. Ben and I talked on the way to the airport at about 11:45."
The calls were made from the respective general managers to the two players without no-trade protection only after it was determined Beckett and Crawford wouldn't be holding up the deal.
So there were three of the four players, summoned to Logan to start their new journey. But despite the Twitter hijinks (and account-building), the atmosphere wasn't totally fun and games. Beckett, for one, was clearly affected by his existence being suddenly turned inside-out. And the pitcher wasn't alone in his angst.
"He doesn't show emotion, but it's never fun to get traded. It gets emotional," Punto said regarding Beckett. "He did a lot of good things in that city, won a championship. I know it's hard because I was in Minnesota for seven years that it's emotional when you've been attached to one place for so long, especially in Boston, such an awesome city. From 7-10 o'clock at night there's no better place to play. You have to deal with the drama, that's just part of it. But from 7-10 it's the best place to play in baseball.
"It was definitely mixed emotions. I signed to play in Boston to win a world championship, and that's why the owners and Ben put together that team they did, to win. It just didn't work out. We had the talent, and everybody gets injured so you never want to put it on injuries, but the players who stayed healthy just didn't perform and play like we should have."
By the time the plane landed in Los Angeles, the Dodgers were going to do everything they could to ease the transition. For Punto, LA hit all the right buttons, starting with the emergence of one of the team's owners, Magic Johnson, as a member of the welcome committee.
The trio were whisked away to meet an impressive group of Dodger receptionists.
"We got off and they had the town cars for us. They said the owners wanted to meet us in the parking lot," Punto remembered. "Me, being a childhood Lakers fan, seeing Magic Johnson was pretty exciting. I tried to post him up and it didn't work. I told him everything. For me, that was the highlight of the whole day. Showtime, Magic and Bird, that's my childhood basketball memories."
But while the next few days would be a constant wave of smiles, they weren't cracked without some lingering regret. The three players had left behind a situation each were intent on fixing, but never quite could.
"If we would have made the playoffs last year, yeah, everything would have been different for the organization," Gonzalez said.
"The biggest misperception that the clubhouse was toxic," Punto said. "They still have a great group. We had an unbelievable group. A great group of guys who enjoyed each other's company. If we were winning we would have had a blast. It would have been a great team."