The 2019 Red Sox have been one of the most confounding teams in recent memory. It’s been nearly impossible to figure out exactly what this team is.

The weekend series in Baltimore didn’t make it easier.

On Friday night the Sox were pounded 11-2 by the lowly Orioles. A night later they exploded for 17 runs, their biggest offensive output of the season. On Sunday they managed only one hit against Asher Wojciechowski in a 5-0 loss.

So the Sox stumbled into Tampa Bay a full 11 games back of the Yankees in the AL East. Equally concerning was the three-game deficit they faced in the wild-card standings. There were six teams within 6.5 games of the wild-card race, meaning the Sox not only will have to be good but will need other teams to stumble.

The season likely will come down to what happens over the next two weeks. Beginning Monday the Sox embarked on a stretch of 14 games against the Rays and Yankees, eight against New York. A stretch of winning or losing baseball will dictate the hopes for a playoff berth.

Further complicating things is the major league trade deadline falls in the middle of that stretch. Teams have until 4 p.m. July 31 to make a deal to improve their rosters. Or to begin rebuilding. This is now the only deadline teams have for changes. There will be no waiver deals in August. If you want to add or move a player, you have to do it by July 31.

Boston finds itself right in the middle. It has shown the ability to score plenty of runs. In fact, the Sox have more runs than any other team in baseball. Yet they have a frustrating tendency to stumble whenever they seem to be building momentum. The weekend was a painful reminder.

It seems pretty clear the division title is out of reach, barring a 7-1 run against the Yankees over the next two weeks. So the most likely route to the postseason will be through the one-game wild-card playoff.

There’s no doubt this team is good enough to win a game like that. They have plenty of talent and a roster full of players who have experienced the pressure of the playoffs.

The important question is, what would happen after that? Is there any reason to believe this team could win a five-game series against one of the better teams in the American League?

Dave Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations, will have to answer that question. He already made his first big move more than two weeks ago, acquiring pitcher Andrew Cashner from Baltimore. Through two starts that hasn’t worked out the way Dombrowski hoped: Cashner has given up nine earned runs in 11 innings with two losses. His next start should come Friday night against the Yankees.

Time will tell if this trade helps the Sox, but there are other concerns in the starting rotation. Rick Porcello has an ERA of 10.57 in his last five starts over just 23 innings. David Price has thrown just 14 innings over his last three starts, and the lack of length from those two starters has put a huge amount of pressure on the bullpen.

The team hopes adding Nathan Eovaldi will help the bullpen, but we were reminded over the weekend that even the greatest closer in the game can’t help when you’re losing by five or winning by 11 in the ninth inning. Starting pitching has been, and will continue to be, the team’s biggest concern.

In the end there’s no easy decision on what to do with this roster as the trade deadline approaches. There’s too much talent to blow it up and start an entire overhaul.  Yet there’s too much frustration and inconsistency to add a major piece or two in the hopes of making the team a favorite.

Dombrowski may have a better idea in a week or so. His decision on what to do with a team built for the long haul may well come down to what happens in a 10-game stretch.

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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