The Boston Red Sox acquired Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects from Milwaukee in a trade that sent outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers on Wednesday night. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The bad news is the Major League Baseball owners have locked out players out for the foreseeable future and don’t appear anywhere close to an agreement.

The good news is that the Boston Red Sox gave you something to feel good about just 28 minutes before the lockout went into place.

That’s right folks, at 11:31 p.m. on Wednesday night, the local nine finally made a splashy move, their first of the offseason.

Did they add an elite starting pitcher? No. Did they dip their toes into the high-end infielders market? Guess again. Did they open their wallets to land one of the best free agent relievers still available? C’mon.

But they did something even sweeter: Jackie Bradley Jr. is coming back to town.

What a brilliant move. Seriously.

Think about it.

On the one hand, Bradley’s .497 OPS during his first (and now only) season with the Milwaukee Brewers was the worst by any MLB player with at least 400 at-bats since 1979, when Mario Mendoza — yes, that Mendoza — had a .466 OPS with the Mariners (he also hit .198, two points shy of the Mendoza line).

But on the other hand, there’s a big chunk of Sox fans who are going to love it.

Bradley and his family were generous to the Boston community while he played here. He’s incredibly fun to watch on defense. His annual hot streaks are exciting. And the Red Sox’ outfield defense was so bad in 2021 that it’s a surprise they never brought Bradley back to Boston on a direct flight from Milwaukee months ago.

As bad as Bradley was at the plate this year, you can still make the argument the Red Sox are actually better with him than with Hunter Renfroe, who is now going to Milwaukee in the swap.

Bradley fits.

As long as he performs closer to his career .700 OPS than the historically bad numbers he put up this year, he probably makes more sense for a Red Sox team that can (and should) now find someone better than Renfroe to play a corner outfield spot while sending Kiké Hernandez from center back to second base, the position he was originally signed to play, and upgrading defensively at two or three positions.

The Sox also landed two prospects with Bradley in the deal, allowing Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom to explain that the trade will help the Red Sox “in the years ahead,” and has a chance to pay dividends “down the road.”

But there’s an inescapable feeling that the Red Sox staged a pair of reunions with beloved players in Bradley and the well-liked Rich Hill to win over a fanbase that has otherwise earned the right to feel frustrated over the last month, when the Sox have done very little to actually help this team right now, this coming year, which could be the last for Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi and J.D. Martinez.

Since the 2021 Red Sox over-performed with a magical run to the American League Championship Series, they have arguably gotten worse, losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers while a handful of others, including Adam Ottavino, Hansel Robles, Jose Iglesias and Kyle Schwarber, became free agents.

While about 70% of MLB teams were busy opening their pocketbooks to dish out more than $1.6 billion of guaranteed money as of Monday, the Red Sox waited patiently, letting the top-tier free agents sign elsewhere while they landed back-end starter Michael Wacha for $7 million.

Tuesday, they agreed on another mellow deal with a starting pitcher, James Paxton, who is out until at least the second half of 2022 recovering from Tommy John surgery but is guaranteed at least $10 million.

Then on Wednesday night, the Red Sox premiered their 2022 Reunion Tour with the announcement that lefty Rich Hill, who is two years younger than Tom Brady, signed a one-year deal worth $5 million and, minutes later, that Bradley, too, was coming back.

Look closely and study up. These were the Sox’ final moves for a while.

The lockout might last for months, which appears to be a very real possibility based on reporting from outlets who have covered the negotiations as well as the angry words exchanged when the current CBA expired at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.

“From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a lengthy statement.

The players shot back with, in part, “This shutdown is a dramatic measure, regardless of the timing. It is not required by law or for any other reason. It was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits.”

There will now be a transaction freeze. No free agent signings or trades until it’s over.
Boston’s final act was to guarantee $22 million spread out to three free agent pitchers on the same day the Mets announced a deal to pay Max Scherzer an annual salary double that number for the next three years.

But it can’t be all doom and gloom. Bradley is back.

Something to feel good about, as curious as it may be.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.