The Boston Red Sox open a three-game series Tuesday night in New York – against the first-place Yankees. It’s a battle of two organizations that have rebuilt themselves with young talent in recent years and are setting their sights on winning the American League East.

The Yankees enter the series with a two-game lead over Boston. They’ve arrived at the top of the division far quicker than anybody expected. Just a few months ago, General Manager Brian Cashman seemed to be taking a step back and rebuilding for the future.

Last year, the Yankees won 84 games and finished nine games behind the Red Sox. Cashman found himself in the unusual position of selling off players. Before the season was through, he got rid of Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Ivan Nova and Carlos Beltran. Brian McCann was traded away after the season.

In exchange, Cashman rebuilt a farm system that had been decimated. More importantly, he opened the way for younger players to step into the Yankee Stadium limelight. The “Baby Bombers” have filled out a lineup that has become one of the most potent in the game. Rookie Aaron Judge leads the major leagues with 18 home runs, and Gary Sanchez has returned from injury to make an impact on offense.

While we thought this was the start of a long-term overhaul, Cashman clearly knew his club was closer to contending than many thought. So he added veterans Matt Holliday and Chris Carter before spring training and brought Chapman back with the most lucrative contract ever given to a reliever.

It was a shrewd move by a GM who somehow managed to energize the organization’s long-term future while improving its short-term chances. It’s a striking turnaround in one year.

In 2016, the Red Sox rode a young lineup to a division title and returned to the playoffs for the first time in three years. Team president Dave Dombrowski didn’t have to rebuild. He entered the offseason looking to add the finishing touch to the defending AL East champs – and pulled off a huge trade for pitcher Chris Sale.

The Sox came into this season feeling good about themselves and the Killer B’s: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi.

Benintendi was rated the sport’s top prospect by Baseball America heading into the season. Yet it’s Judge who has become the rookie to watch. In last week’s All-Star voting update, he was second among AL outfielders. Yankee Stadium now features the “Judge’s Chambers” in right field.

Meanwhile, Benintendi was going through the expected adjustment period of his first full season, dealing with a couple slumps that dropped his batting average about 80 points. However, he tuned up for his visit to New York with a pair of home runs Sunday in a 7-3 win at Baltimore.

The Red Sox have yet to prove themselves in the best division in baseball. They’re 12-13 against AL East teams but have played the fewest divisional games of any AL East team. They’ve only played the Yankees twice, losing a pair of games at Fenway Park in April.

Boston won’t face the Yankees again for more than a month, making this three-game set in The Bronx an important early season series. The Red Sox are in second place despite a sluggish start. They could make a statement with a series win. And maybe a showdown for first place is what this age-old rivalry needs to get reignited in a new generation.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.