Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra leaps away from a sliding Corey Koskie while turning a double play against the Minnesota Twins on June 23, 2004. Five weeks later the Red Sox stunned the baseball world by trading Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics shocked the sports world last week with a midnight deal to acquire Kristaps Porzingis from the Washington Wizards in a three-team trade that sent Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies.

At 7-foot-3, Porzingis is one of the tallest players in the NBA and should improve the Celtics’ front-court depth. He can pass from the post and is coming off a career season with Washington, averaging 23.2 points at the age of 27.

Smart leaves after a nine-year run in Boston, and was the heart and soul of the team for the past few seasons. He was a defensive stalwart, a smart passer (pun intended) and the motor that jump-started Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum when they needed it.

He was also one of the most polarizing players in recent Celtics memory. Many fans loved his tenacity and commitment on both ends of the court. Others hated his late-game decisions and his tendency to shoot rather than pass to one of his superstar teammates with the game on the line. That’s why this trade was equally polarizing.

To some, the acquisition of Porzingis was a stroke of genius. He’s a nightmare to defend and has become more of a defensive presence in recent years. To others, he’s just another guy looking to launch 3-point shots, something the Celtics did far too much of in the Eastern Conference finals against Miami.

That’s the thing about big trades. You have to give up talent to get talent. A formula like that instantly creates debate.


In July 2004, the Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra in a four-team deal that was barely filed before the 4 p.m. trade deadline on July 31. Nomar was dealt to the Chicago Cubs while hitting .321 with Boston, the seventh time in eight years he would post a batting average of .300 or better.

It was the most shocking trade in most of our lifetimes. Red Sox fans had traveled to watch him play in the minors and watched him blossom into a big league batting champ, a shortstop destined to be a Hall of Famer. They yelled “NOMAH” at the top of their lungs when he stepped to the plate. And Theo Epstein, a first-year general manager, dealt him away.

There was immediate uproar across Red Sox Nation. It was so bad that Epstein’s twin brother, Paul, a social worker and life-long Sox fan, called him and yelled, “What did you do?”

What Theo Epstein did was reboot the franchise. The trade eventually shook the talent-laden Red Sox out of their doldrums and on a path for their first championship since 1918. It wasn’t because he got better talent. Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, acquired in the Garciaparra deal, were playing for other teams by 2005. Neither was as good a player as Garciaparra.

Yet both were better fits for that 2004 team and the trade was exactly what the Sox needed just nine months after a Game 7 loss in the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.

Only time will tell if Porzingis is the piece that can lift the Celtics to the next level. With Smart, the Celtics were one of the best teams in the league, reaching the conference finals in five of the last seven seasons.

Yet they have only been to the NBA Finals once in that span, and haven’t won it all since 2008. That’s the longest championship drought of the four major teams in Boston. For all the good vibes surrounding Brown and Tatum, this team has underachieved with two of the 10 best players in the league on the same team.

Porzingis creates a Big(ger) Three that might be able to take that next step. Or it might not. Either way, it was time to try something to alter the direction of the franchise. Sometimes that takes trading away one of the most popular players on a team.

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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