Boston Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, left, congratulates players after the Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win their American League Division Series in October. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Thanks to the Major League Baseball lockout that went into effect last week, the hot stove season has been put on pause. Intermissions are a perfect time to review what has happened, and discuss what needs to happen when the action resumes.

We are not going to waste your time discussing why billionaire owners and millionaire players can’t figure out a way to divvy up a pie worth more than $10 billion a year. We’re going to assume cooler heads will prevail in the weeks and months ahead to get this industry back to work in time to start the 2022 season.

Where will the Boston Red Sox be when operations start up again? Like every other team in baseball, they will be an unfinished product. That’s fine. It’s the intermission, not the finish line. Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom will have work to do as he tries to round out a roster worthy of returning to the playoffs next fall.

What has Bloom done so far? For one thing, he has added depth to the rotation. Rich Hill and Michael Wacha won’t be vying for the American League Cy Young Award next season, but both should be able to provide innings and length to a rotation that posted a league-average 4.49 ERA in 2021.

That was better than the 5.05 ERA Wacha posted with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, a year that ended with a disastrous playoff appearance when he gave up six runs on nine hits in just 2 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the AL Division Series against Boston. He made 23 starts for Tampa Bay but is probably slated for bullpen/spot start duty if the Sox have a healthy pitching staff this summer.

Hill, meantime, stayed healthy and had a terrific season pitching for the Rays and New York Mets. He posted a 3.86 ERA over 31 starts (and one relief appearance), both the second best of his 17 year career. The Milton, Massachusetts, native signed with the Sox for the seventh time in his career. Will the signing be worth it?

The Red Sox only committed $5 million to Hill for 2022 (we can discuss how $5 million is “only” a little, but since we’re not getting into the economics of the MLB labor agreement we are going to set that conversation aside) so if they get 100 innings out of Hill next season it will be a good signing. Based on last year’s numbers they could get a lot more.

Hill threw more curveballs last season than in any other year, and hitters in both leagues were baffled by the movement of those pitches. Cynics have been saying he’s near the end of his career for years … and Hill has responded by posting a sub-4.00 ERA in seven straight seasons.

The Sox also added James Paxton, a hard-throwing lefty with a 3.59 career ERA, but that’s more of a long-term play for Bloom. Paxton is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready until very late in the 2022 season. The bet here is that he is recovered by then, ready to reclaim his place toward the top of a rotation in 2023, when the Sox can activate a two-year extension.

In his final move before the lockout, Bloom shocked everyone by flipping Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley, Jr and two prospects. JBJ returns to Boston after an abysmal year at the plate in Milwaukee, when he hit just .163 in 134 games for the Brewers. Yet Bradley’s bat has always played better in the cozy confines of Fenway Park. And the prospects they got in return – infielders David Hamilton and Alex Binelas – continue Bloom’s project of rebuilding the farm system.

With Hill and Bradley returning to Boston, you may be wondering if there are any other former Sox players headed back to Fenway this winter? Sadly, Daisuke Matsuzaka officially retired after 23 professional seasons when he made the announcement Saturday night at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. So scratch him off the list.

Just keep that list handy, because Bloom is clearly not done. When the lockout ends, he should be looking for a middle of the rotation arm, late-inning relief help and one more bat (perhaps in the outfield, where Bradley can platoon as a four-man rotation).

Some of those moves may be trades, especially now that the farm system is closer to being well-stocked. Others will be via free agency, as unsigned players scramble to reach an agreement in a lockout-shortened offseason.

It will be a busy Act 2 to this offseason. Let’s just hope this intermission doesn’t last long.

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


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