Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox might be the best last-place team in Major League Baseball, and it’s hard to imagine that changing anytime soon.

Last season was something of an anomaly in Beantown, as the Sawx finished last in the AL East…but went 78-84 on the year. Only the Cardinals and Nationals, with 71 each, had more wins as a last place team. Former reliever Craig Breslow took over baseball operations, replacing a fired Chaim Bloom. Breslow proceeded to do…almost nothing.

His biggest move? Signing reclamation righty Lucas Giolito to a one-year deal, and then losing him to Tommy John surgery in spring training.

Get comfortable on the duck boat and enjoy the view of the Charles, baseball fans. Another bad year in Boston is barreling down Boylston and making a beeline for Fenway.

Greatest Addition: Tyler O’Neill. Boston ranked sixth in batting average and 11th in runs scored last year, but only 18th in home runs. Breslow fixed that in December by trading two minor leaguers to St. Louis for outfielder Tyler O’Neill, practically a bargain. The oft-injured righty-bat has two Gold Gloves and slugged 34 home runs for the Cardinals in 2019. Injuries limited him to 72 games as he hit just .231.

O’Neill turned in a good spring training and hit .290 with an .857 OPS this year. He has one year left on his contract and though his glove has slipped in recent years, he still has a good arm. If he can stay healthy and take advantage of teeny-tiny Fenway Park, O’Neill can easily be moved for prospects at the deadline if Breslow opts to sell high.

Greatest Loss: Alex Verdugo. There’s something to be said for spark plug players like Verdugo, even if he butted heads with manager Alex Cora. But even with his expiring contract, did Boston really have to trade him to their bitterest AL East rival, the New York Yankees? He will be the everyday left fielder in the Bronx.

Contrastingly, the Red Sox will certainly miss Verdugo’s arm in right field. He notched 12 assists from there last season. Hitting-wise, he is a stubborn pest who makes up for his lack of power with an absolute refusal to strike out. His strikeout rate (K%) was in the 88th percentile and he only fanned 93 times in 142 games.

He is now on the other side of the rivalry, and all the rebuilding Red Sox can do is watch.

Greatest Strength: Alex Cora. The Red Sox were almost too good for a last place team in 2024. Such is the Alex Cora effect. He has his players’ backs and is such a motivator that his teams in his second Red Sox run have regularly punched above their weight.

Mind you, this Red Sox team does not have a ton of what we’d call star power. Rafael Devers is the closest player they have, especially given his new 10-year, $313.5 million contract kicks in this year. Besides him, the Red Sox are a combination of youth, role players, and journeymen.

And yet, Boston still looks like a competitive team, all thanks to Cora. Not only does he get the best out of his players, but they want to be their best for him.

Greatest Weakness: Chaotic ownership. To understand the chaos that is Fenway Sports Group, we’ll do a quick rundown of Bloom’s tenure running the front office. He was given a simple direction when he was hired: cut payroll while attempting to field a competitive team. Bloom proceeded to trade fan favorite and former MVP Mookie Betts on the cusp of his free agency, and also let popular shortstop Xander Bogaerts leave in free agency to sign an awful deal with the Padres.

You would think that the Red Sox going 267-262 in four years with a trip to the ALCS under those circumstances would be enough to keep Bloom around, right? Yeah, we thought so too. It was thus shocking when Boston’s ownership fired Bloom for, in a nutshell, doing his job?

We still don’t know what went wrong with the former Rays executive, but we can say this with certainty. Until ownership actually commits to either fully contending or rebuilding, the Boston Red Sox will continue to look like a chaotic, unserious franchise.

What can we expect from this latest Boston Red Sox rebuild? It will definitely be pitching-oriented. Breslow is a former reliever whose title in the Cubs’ front office was literally “Vice President, Pitching,” so he’ll likely lead from there. The Red Sox desperately need this, as only nine of their Top 30 prospects are pitchers. None appear to be ready, so look for Breslow to accelerate their expected MLB arrivals.

This could also be a pivotal year for Boston’s No. 1 prospect, shortstop Marcelo Mayer. A shoulder injury held him to a .236 batting average in 78 games across High-A and Double-A last season. He was invited to spring training and went 1 for 4 in two games, so the Red Sox will be watching his health intently.

All in all, and with apologies to the fans, the Red Sox aren’t better than they were last year. They might actually be a little bit worse. But if youngsters like Mayer and outfielder Roman Anthony keep developing and if Breslow pushes the right pitching buttons, perhaps the Red Sox will luck into a shorter rebuild.

But we wouldn’t count on that.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.