The American League East is going back in time.

If there’s one takeaway on the Boston Red Sox from the winter meetings, which came to a close Thursday with the Red Sox doing nothing more than snagging a couple minor leaguers in the Rule 5 draft, it’s this: Their division is once again becoming a two-horse race.

All five teams have been competitive in recent years, but either the Red Sox or Yankees have won 16 of the last 20 AL East titles dating to 1998, when the Yankees began a run of nine straight division crowns.

The Tampa Bay Rays had a nice little run of competitiveness from 2008-13. The Toronto Blue Jays looked dominant in 2015 and ’16. The Baltimore Orioles were a sneaky-good team from 2012-16 despite a questionable roster in recent years.

Those runs appear over.

The Orioles and Rays aren’t trying to hide their plans: They’re selling, and selling big. Baltimore is shopping Manny Machado to the point where General Manager Dan Duquette is talking publicly about Machado’s availability. The Rays are reportedly looking to deal closer Alex Colome, considering moving Chris Archer and listening on third baseman Evan Longoria.

“I think they have made it pretty clear that they want to cut salary, so I guess that leaves me somewhere in limbo,” Longoria told the Tampa Bay Times this week.

The Blue Jays have been more discreet, reportedly showing interest in signing free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain while at the same time listening to offers on former MVP Josh Donaldson.

That leaves the Yankees and Red Sox atop the division again, like old times, and fighting for offseason bragging rights.

It’s the Yankees who won Round 1, taking over at the meetings by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton and then freeing up cash by sending Chase Headley to the San Diego Padres.

They’re now in position to score big in free agency, with plenty of money to chase a top-level starter like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb. And their farm system remains loaded enough to make a run at available stars like Machado.

The Red Sox, already over $200 million in payroll and short on prospects, left the winter meetings without accomplishing much, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he wasn’t surprised.

“No, I didn’t really anticipate much different, actually,” he said. “I figured, where we were, probably, when everybody kept saying, ‘You’re going to the winter meetings, and a bunch of things could happen,’ I think I said to a couple of people, ‘Well, there’s a long time after the winter meetings before the season begins.’

“I just know where we are and some of the things we’re talking about will probably take awhile.”

Dombrowski’s only moves were to select outfielder Luke Tendler from the Texas Rangers and right-hander Andrew Ferguson from the Kansas City Royals in the Rule 5 draft.

It wasn’t exactly the splash Red Sox fans were hoping for, but Dombrowski figures to be working the phones right through the holiday season.

“I don’t know if anything will happen during that time period, but I don’t think it’s going to be quiet,” he said.

What’s become most clear is that the Red Sox aren’t in a position, nor are they willing to try, to throw unreasonable amounts of money and quality prospects at the problem.

They’re showing patience in their pursuit of J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer, and they weren’t willing to pay the price for Marcell Ozuna, the power-hitting outfielder whom they discussed acquiring before he was sent from the Marlins to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara.

By the time the Red Sox find their big bat, will there be any utility players left?

Eduardo Nunez is still available and there are other options by trade, such as the Padres’ Yangervis Solarte, who has averaged 16 homers with a .759 OPS over his three years while playing home games in spacious Petco Park.

The Red Sox, though, have other priorities right now, Dombrowski said.

And they’ll stay on the hunt right through January as they try to convince some of the game’s best hitters that Boston is a premier destination.

“I mean, I happen to love the atmosphere and the passion. Some guys have a hard time with the daily scrutiny,” Dombrowski said. “I think it’s a great place to play, but other people may feel differently.”