After a long, ugly, weekend at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, the Red Sox got to spend a day off Monday in snowy, windy Cleveland. There might’ve been a little meteorological shock for the Sox, who had been in the heat of Florida and Texas for the past two months.

Then again, the shock might have been from the 11 home runs hit off them by the Rangers, and a three-game sweep that saw the vaunted Sox outscored, 26-11.

Fans were shocked, too. The Red Sox front office dominated the offseason with trades and free-agent signings. Then, after a lackluster spring training record, the bell rang against the defending AL champs – who stunned the Sox with three decisive wins.

Shocking, yes. Yet, what we learned about the Sox this weekend is no different than what we learned about them in 2010. The Red Sox are only going to be as good as their starting rotation this season. And the one-two combination of Jon Lester and John Lackey was not good at all.

Clay Buchholz was better on Sunday, giving up five hits. Unfortunately, four of those hits left the yard. Buchholz gave up nine homers in all of 2010. He’s nearly half-way there after 61/3 innings this season.

Before we line up on the Tobin (or the Casco Bay) Bridge, let’s not forget that the Rangers are a good team. A very good team. They had the best batting average in the American League last season, a lineup powered by 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton wanted everyone to know that the Rangers were making a definitive statement with their effort against the Sox.

“You don’t hear anyone talking about the defending AL champs at all,” Hamilton told reporters in Texas at the start of the weekend, “so it just adds fuel to the fire.”

Red Sox pitchers threw gasoline on that fire over the weekend.

Last year, Boston relievers suffered more losses than any other bullpen in the American League. That was addressed in the off-season. Four of the seven members of the current ‘pen are new to the organization.

What hasn’t changed is the rotation. Lackey and Clay Buchholz combined for 36 wins last year, but Josh Beckett and John Lackey were disappointments.

Beckett, who pitches tonight in Cleveland, won only six games while battling injuries. Lackey won 14 – third most on the team – but had an ERA of 4.40 and averaged the fourth most pitches per start of any starter in the league.

It’s one thing to assume that Lester and Buchholz will pitch better than they did over the weekend. It’s a much larger leap of fate to expect Beckett and Lackey to be dominant.

We knew coming into the season that both would need to bounce back if this team was going to live up to its expectations. Nothing that happened in Texas changes that.

Both Lackey and Beckett will pitch at Fenway Park this weekend against the Yankees. Red Sox fans will be closely monitoring every pitch thrown against New York.

The Red Sox spent much of the spring telling us (and themselves) not to buy into the hype. This team was the preseason favorite because it’s loaded with talent, not because of media hoopla.

It still is a playoff-caliber team. But the talk of 100 wins, the talk of it being the best Red Sox team ever, is nothing more than that. Talk.

Last year, the Rangers only needed to win 90 games to take their division, and they went onto the World Series.

Over the weekend, they looked like a team that could get back there. And the Red Sox looked like a team that needed a few days in Cleveland to figure some things out.

 

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.