The Red Sox have freed up tens of millions of dollars for an offseason shopping spree. How they choose to spend that money is going to determine the future of the franchise.

On Saturday, the Sox rebooted with a stunning nine-player deal that sent four established veterans to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for James Loney and four prospects. The Red Sox unloaded about a quarter billion dollars in future contracts, giving them enormous financial flexibility heading into the offseason.

Fans were unsure how to react. After all, it’s been a long time since the Sox were out-and-out sellers this late in the season. It’s also been a long time since the Red Sox have posted a losing record at home, but they’re well on their way to doing so for the first time since 1997.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. It doesn’t get much more drastic than unloading a quartet of players who have combined for 11 All-Star appearances.

Why did the Dodgers take on all those big contracts? Because they were trying to make a statement to a fan base that saw its beloved team three games out of first place in the NL West, and because they were closing in on massive television deals that require star power for promotion.

Dodgertown was whipped into a frenzy when Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat Saturday. Monday night, Josh Beckett started against Colorado in Denver.

Beckett might excel in the National League, but he needed to go. He was unhappy and underachieving, a combination that turned him into one of the most unloved players Boston has seen in many years.

The Sox got a pair of top pitching prospects in return, helping them build farm system depth. They will need that depth to rebuild; some of the prospects they got may well be used in trades to restock the roster.

It’ll be a weak free-agent class this offseason, so it won’t be easy for General Manager Ben Cherington to spend his newfound millions. Yet there are always teams looking to move players with large contracts. Boston’s management will be very careful taking those contracts, and the biggest concern will be the length, not the size, of those deals.

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.