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Top Stories of 2012, No. 4: Red Sox complete blockbuster trade with Dodgers

12.30.12 at 9:12 am ET

Over the final week of 2012, will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 4: the Red Sox‘ megatrade with Dodgers

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical
No. 5: Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals loss to Heat

It is one of the biggest trades the Red Sox have ever made. The late-August blockbuster deal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers will go down as a landmark moment for Sox ownership as it tries to rebuild a team that has won two World Series in the last decade.

In exchange, the Sox received first baseman James Loney and four prospects: pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. and outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands.

The moving of Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto was a major shift for the Sox, who in the past years had been locking players into long-term contracts. Together, those four players represent 11 All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, three World Series rings, one World Series MVP, one LCS MVP and one All-Star MVP.

The Sox, with that trade, started the reconstruction of a team which had fallen short of expectations beginning with an epic collapse in September 2011.

Sox GM Ben Cherington insisted the move was not about correcting a reportedly problematic clubhouse, but instead about creating a better team going forward.

‘€œThe culture will feel better when we start winning more games. This was about creating an opportunity to build a better team moving forward. It was not a trade that was made to try to fix a cultural problem,’€ Cherington said. ‘€œIt was about opportunity, giving us opportunity moving forward. The culture will feel very good when we do the things that have made us good over time, things that help us win games. When we do those things, the culture will feel good.’€

Added Cherington: ‘€œThe bottom line is that we haven’€™t won enough games. That goes back to last September. We haven’€™t performed on the field as a team. We’€™ve had individuals perform, and this is not about the four players we gave up, anything they did particularly wrong. We just haven’€™t performed as a team when we needed to.’€

As much as Cherington points to the team-building element of the trade, the financial aspect of the trade has to be considered. The Sox owed Crawford and Beckett a combined $140 million, with close to $130 million owed to Gonzalez.

Their contracts were among many long-term, high-paying deals the Sox were dealing out. It started in December 2009, when the team signed starting pitcher John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal through 2014. Beckett got a four-year, $68 million extension in April 2010 to lock him up through 2014. After missing the playoffs the next season, the Sox traded for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and agreed to extend his $6.3 million salary by seven years, and $154 million to keep him in Boston through 2018. And, finally, the Sox signed free agent Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract to acquire his services until 2017.

“If it falls into place, the deal sheds us from tens of millions of dollars of long-term commitments,’€ Sox chairman Tom Werner said. ‘€œIt gets us great prospects who will improve our major league roster as soon as next year. It brings us a player in James Loney who was untouchable a couple of years ago. It allows us to start over with free agents. We want to win for our fans and we now have huge financial flexibility to improve the team.”

Moving the players seemed like the right move for many reasons, including poor performance, injuries and rumored clubhouse discontent.

Beckett posted a disappointing 5-11 record and 5.23 ERA in 2012 with the Sox. His attitude was the foremost concern among fans and the media, as Beckett was reported to have golfed on an off day just one day after missing a start with a pulled lat.

Beckett told that he was distracted by the golf controversy before he had a poor outing against the Indians on May 10. Beckett went just 2 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits, including a pair of home runs, and the Fenway crowd booed him off the mound.

In seven starts with the Dodgers, Beckett went 2-3 and posted a much-lower 2.93 ERA.

Gonzalez was the exception in that he was putting up respectable numbers with the Sox — hitting .300 with 15 homers and 86 RBIs. He added immediate value for the Dodgers as a solid, defensive first baseman who can hit.

He made his Dodgers debut with a home run, but he only hit two more through the rest of the season. He maintained a .298 average and had 22 RBIs in 145 at-bats in the National League. Gonzalez, no stranger to the NL, had played five seasons with the Padres, winning three Gold Gloves there.

Punto was hitting .200 with the Sox with 10 RBIs. After he put on his Dodgers uniform, he raised his average to .286 but drove in nobody in 35 at-bats.

Crawford, after putting up career-low numbers in 2011, played in just 31 games for the Sox during the 2012 season because of wrist and elbow injuries. The value to Dodgers will be determined next season, as he had Tommy John surgery prior to the trade.

Loney made his Sox debut Aug. 26. He had hit .254 in 114 games with the Dodgers, driving in 33 runs and socking four home runs. Loney had 23 hits in 100 at-bats with the Sox in 30 games. His stay in Boston would be short, as he signed a one-year contract with the Rays as a free agent this offseason.

The Sox will have to wait a bit longer to see how all the prospects turn out. Two of them — De Jesus and Sands — were sent to the Pirates as part of the Joel Hanrahan deal.

The general consensus following the trade was that the Sox did well. They unloaded some burdensome contracts to start the process of rebuilding, and they’ve shown this offseason that they will continue to spend money to improve the team.

Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Adrian gonzalez, Allen Webster, Ben Cherington