Red Sox on top after under-the-radar offseason

The Red Sox on the way to this year's AL East title. (AP Photo)

A blockbuster trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers last year effectively made Boston the land of the misfit toys. The Red Sox had endured one of their worst seasons in recent memory, finishing at the bottom of the AL East despite lofty expectations. Fast forward to right now, as Boston has the best record in baseball during a season that had virtually no expectations.

What a difference a year makes.

The 2013 Boston Red Sox truly have it all. A talented and deep pitching staff. A solid bullpen with a shutdown closer. And the best lineup in baseball, top to bottom. The key here has been the perfect combination of veterans and youngsters, as well as new acquisitions and Boston mainstays.

All of the offseason additions flew under the radar, as Boston put together a special package of new players. Mike Napoli has been a huge addition as a power hitter who can get extremely hot. Jonny Gomes has embraced the Boston beard lifestyle and come up with extremely clutch hits. Shane Victorino has been an excellent fielder and brought hitting to an already potent lineup. And Stephen Drew has come in and done a more than respectable job at shortstop, a position that has plagued the Red Sox for years.

Then there’s the usual suspects. David Ortiz is still one of the best hitters in baseball, as is Dustin Pedroia, whose leadership is unmatched. Jacoby Ellsbury has been a base-stealing machine and Daniel Nava has broken out into a legit threat at the plate. Youngsters, such as Will Middlebrooks, Xander Boegarts and Mike Carp, have also provided crucial production.

Pitching was what plagued the Sox last year, but has been a complete 180 in 2013. Clay Bucholz broke out to be a true ace this year and looks good, despite being hurt for a very long time. John Lackey has had a resurgent year and at times has been considered the team’s best pitcher. Jon Lester’s early season struggles are behind him, as he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the past month. And Jake Peavy, from the White Sox, has solidified this potent playoff rotation.

And then there’s closer Koji Uehara. What more can you say about a guy who’s had one of the most amazing scoreless streaks in MLB history despite being fourth in line as closer at the start of the season.

Baseball is a funny sport. We expect the unexpected. Quite often, the best team doesn’t always win. Right now, the Red Sox look like the best team, but they also look like they could be the winners at the end of the season. This Red Sox team is the perfect storm of players, making this unlikely turnaround possible.