Boston’s defense of  its World Series championship begins Thursday in Seattle. The Red Sox will take the field looking to become the first team since the 2000 New York Yankees to win back-to-back titles.

The days of “once-in-a lifetime” championships are long gone for the Red Sox. They’ve won four titles since 2004 – more than any other major league team. Of the three previous Boston teams that tried to defend a championship this century, the 2008 team most resembles the one that will get to work later this week.

That’s because this team, like the one that played for Manager Terry Francona in 2008, is essentially the same group that won it all in Los Angeles in October. Alex Cora brings back a roster that essentially lost just two key players (Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly).

The 2008 team returned essentially the same group that won the World Series in 2007. The only player of note who didn’t come back was pitcher Curt Schilling, who made his last big-league appearance in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series.

It was a different story in 2004 and 2013, when the Red Sox lost significant players after riding the duck boats. Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe didn’t return for 2005, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were gone before the rings were handed out in 2014.

In each of those cases, the Red Sox struggled to recapture the magic of the previous season. The 2005 Red Sox were swept in the first round of the playoffs; the 2014 team fell to the bottom of the AL East.

It was a different story in 2008. The Red Sox won 95 games and returned to the postseason thinking they could do it again. Boston dispatched  the Los Angeles Angels in four games and took the Tampa Bay Rays to the seventh game of the ALCS.  The Red Sox were one win from returning to the World Series, but lost Game 7  when David Price – just a few months removed from Vanderbilt – came on for Tampa Bay to get the final four outs and pick up the save.

It was a disappointing end to the season, but the fact the Red Sox came so close to making it back to the World Series bodes well for the coming season. Like the 2008 edition, the 2019 Sox feature a full roster of players who experienced an historic run.

Twenty-four of the 25 players on the Opening Day roster should be players who wore the Red Sox uniform last season. Only Colten Brewer, acquired in the offseason from San Diego, was with a different team a year ago.

While many experts look at the Yankees’ offseason moves as dramatic improvements to a team that won 100 games last season, the Red Sox believe they made two major moves to make themselves as good as last fall.  Steve Pearce, the World Series MVP, and  Nathan Eovaldi, a World Series cult hero, were free agents who could have signed elsewhere this winter. Both are back for full seasons after joining the Red Sox midway through 2018.

Manager Alex Cora believes a full year of Pearce, platooning with Mitch Moreland at first base, will make this offense even more dynamic. And he loves the depth of his rotation with Eovaldi back for a full year.

Another key addition will be Dustin Pedroia, who played only three games last year. He won’t be on the roster Thursday in Seattle, but don’t be surprised if he’s in the starting lineup April 9 when the Red Sox meet the Blue Jays in the Fenway Park opener.

If Pedroia stays healthy, he’ll be hell-bent to prove his doubters wrong. That could be another major addition to this team.

The Red Sox didn’t make many moves this offseason. They didn’t have to. With last year’s players back for more, this team will look to follow the 2008 group’s route deep into October.

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