Trying To Figure Red Sox' Angle ... And Failing

Hey, here's a new one: the Boston Red Sox just dumped salary and created a hole in their lineup?

Well, yeah. They did. The Sox have traded Marco Scutaro, their best shortstop, and sloughed off Scutaro's $6 million contract, which seems a pittance considering a) Scutaro's been worth something like $22 million over the last couple of seasons, and 2) Scutaro's departure apparently leaves shortstop in the hands of Nick Punto, who 3) can't hit.

There's one thing to be said for Punto: Though he's not actually played a great deal of shortstop in his career, he seems to be fairly adept at the position. It's possible that the Red Sox's internal metrics suggest that Punto can play Gold Glove-quality shortstop, nearly every day. Unlikely. But possible.

The Red Sox did receive Clayton Mortensen from the Rockies in the deal, and Mortensen joins a long list of candidates for the back end of Boston's rotation.

He's not a particularly good candidate, though. Almost 27, Mortensen's spent most of the last four seasons with various Class AAA teams, and posted an uninspiring (1.88) strikeout-to-walk ratio. In limited major-league action he's been significantly worse.

So again, this looks mostly like a salary dump. And a $6 million salary dump, at that.

It almost seems that there must be something else to this story. Why Clayton Mortensen? Scutaro's a legitimate every-day shortstop, good enough to play for most of the teams in the majors. The Sox really couldn't do better than Mortensen? Do they see something in him that we can't see? Do they have a deal lined up for another shortstop? Did they really need that $6 million to afford Roy Oswalt or somebody?

Even leaving aside that the Red Sox usually have pretty good reasons for doing what they do, might this be the strangest deal of the winter? And are the Rockies really this smart?

That's a lot of questions, I know. But that's what happens when I am nonplussed.

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