For the third straight year, the Red Sox hit the midway point of the season with 49 wins. That’s a 98-win pace, not bad for a team that has nearly half of its roster on the disabled list.

After 81 games (on Saturday) , the Sox were just a half-game out of the AL East lead, holding onto the second-best record in baseball. This is the 13th consecutive year the Sox have reached game 82 with a winning record.

As we know in Boston, winning records are not enough. The Sox are expected to compete, and it certainly seemed like those expectations would go unfulfilled when the Sox fell 81/2 games back of first in mid-May.

Yet Terry Francona’s constantly changing roster wasted no time staging a comeback, and by the midway milepost they were in sole possession of a playoff spot.

In case you haven’t noticed, this Red Sox team has become wildly entertaining.

They’ve got an outfielder whose contract they purchased for a buck (Daniel Nava); another outfielder who spent 12 years in the minors (Darnell McDonald); two catchers who had combined to play in 23 games this season (Kevin Cash and Gustavo Molina); and a pitcher who hadn’t pitched in a major league game in five years (Scott Atchison.)

Through it all, they’ve managed to cobble together the best record in baseball since April 20.

In February, when the Sox assembled in Ft. Myers, Fla., there was plenty of talk about this team making it to the post-season for the seventh time in eight years.

While the front office talked about run prevention, the experts looked at a starting rotation that led the AL in strikeouts last season and added John Lackey to the mix.

Red Sox starters were 18-6 with a 3.02 ERA in the 31 games leading into the midway point of the season.

The Sox rotation went 39-20 through the first half of the season, the best winning percentage in baseball.

Remarkably, they have done it without their opening-day starter. Josh Beckett has been on the DL since May 19, missing the last 43 games.

With All-Stars Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz leading the way, it’s easy to see why the pitching staff has survived the loss of Beckett.

The most unexpected aspect of this team’s success has been the offense. Boston led all of baseball with 447 runs in the first half of the season. Their OPS (on base + slugging percentages), now considered to be one of the best gauges of offensive success, was also the best at .822.

The Sox have done that without their leadoff hitter. Jacoby Ellsbury, expected to be the offensive catalyst, has played in only 10 games this season.

For the past 22 games, he has been joined on the DL by Jeremy Hermida — the reserve outfielder expected to take his place in left.

And Mike Cameron, the man who moved Ellsbury out of center field, is managing his playing time carefully after missing 34 games with an abdominal strain.

All of these outfield injuries were bad enough. Now, with Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek on the DL, it’s become laughable.

Through it all, the Sox persevere. They are hoping to tread water until the regulars return.

Beckett is expected to make his first rehab start in the Gulf Coast League today, weather permitting.

Buchholz should be ready to pitch after the All-Star break.

The Sox expect Martinez to be back shortly after that as well.

Teams will be looking to add talent as the nonwaiver trade deadline approaches.

The Sox feel they are getting plenty of additional help — from their roster, as it finally gets healthy.


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.