There won’t be much of a “hugwatch” in the Boston Red Sox organization this year.

In case you don’t know, #hugwatch is a social media phenomenon that happens in baseball each July, as people watch games at all levels waiting to see if someone comes off the field during a game and is greeted by hugs in the dugout. That often means the player has been traded, usually in the days leading up to the July 31 deadline.

Andrew Cashner will make his first start Tuesday night for the Boston Red Sox, who acquired him in a trade with Baltimore on Saturday. Cashner was 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts with the Orioles this season. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

This year, the Sox didn’t wait to make their move. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski pulled the trigger and acquired a much-needed arm when he traded for Andrew Cashner of the Orioles on Saturday.

Cashner arrived in Boston over the weekend and will make his first start for the Red Sox on Tuesday night against the Blue Jays. He will slot in as the team’s fifth starter, a vast improvement over the collection of relievers Alex Cora has been forced to use since Nathan Eovaldi was injured in April.

Eovaldi should finally return to the team in the next week. When he does, it will be as a reliever. That decision was made in recent weeks in large part so the Red Sox could get Eovaldi back to the majors sooner. Had they used him as a starter he would have needed a minor-league rehab stint that could have lasted as long as a month.

While Cora has said Eovaldi’s role in the bullpen will be figured out when he begins to pitch, sources have told NESN that the goal is for him to serve as a traditional closer. The team’s attempt to fill that role with a committee of relievers has not worked.

There’s no guarantee this will work either. Eovaldi has never recorded a save in his major league career, though he pitched well in relief during the 2018 postseason.

That’s where this team finds itself with the second half of the season underway. Even when the Boston bullpen performs well – as it did in Sunday night’s 12-inning loss to the Dodgers – there have not been enough arms to compete with the game’s best. After getting six scoreless innings from his relievers Sunday, Cora had to turn to Hector Velazquez for the final inning. Two walks and three runs, later the Dodgers had taken two of three games in the weekend series – and the Red Sox were left with plenty of questions to answer.

Dombrowski and Cora are hoping the combination of Cashner in the rotation and Eovaldi in the bullpen will be the answer to those questions. We’ll begin to find out on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, other contenders will be looking for their own pitching help. Dombrowski has proven adept at making a move ahead of the competition. He did it in 2016 when he acquired Drew Pomeranz over the All-Star break. He did it again this year with Cashner. Getting him now allows the Red Sox to get three to four starts from him before the deadline. And we now know every game is critical for this team’s postseason hopes.

The cost for Cashner wasn’t overwhelming. We’re not sure if there were dugout hugs for Noelberth Romero and Elio Prado, the two 17-year-old prospects Dombrowski dealt for a major league starter. They may have fine big-league careers, but those careers are years away. Boston’s sights are on much more immediate results. The Red Sox began the work week 2 1/2 games out of the American League wild-card race.

After the Cashner deal, Dombrowski said the team might stand pat the rest of the way. That will work if Eovaldi can become an effective closer. The Red Sox still have one of the best offenses in the game, and they should have enough pitching to cobble together a wild-card run.

On Monday night, Boston began a stretch of 21 consecutive games against AL East opponents. It’s a critical stretch in this team’s season. It won’t end until the final game of a three-day, four-game series at Yankee Stadium in August.

By then the trade deadline will have come and gone. Right now it looks as though the Red Sox have done all the dealing they plan on doing.

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


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