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Boston's deal for Sale tips scale in AL East

Dombrowski's penchant for a splash should have divisional domino effect
MLB.com @RichardJustice

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Boston Red Sox changed the balance of power in the American League East on Tuesday. Suddenly, the rest of the division is on the clock.

First, the big one.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Boston Red Sox changed the balance of power in the American League East on Tuesday. Suddenly, the rest of the division is on the clock.

First, the big one.

The Red Sox acquired left-hander Chris Sale from the White Sox in the kind of gutsy, go-for-it trade for which Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is known.

Hot Stove Tracker

"If you have a chance to win, you take every opportunity to do so," he said.

This is the guy who has acquired Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Ian Kinsler at various times in his career. He surrendered a boatload of young talent in those deals.

And he did not care. He went for players he believed could help his team win immediately.

Video: Morris, Justice on blockbuster Sale to Red Sox trade

Sale was the biggest addition on a day when Dombrowski also improved two other areas of his team by acquiring reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers and signing free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland.

Don't be surprised if the Yankees suddenly ratchet up their pursuit of free-agent closer Aroldis Chapman. Likewise, the Orioles and free-agent slugger Mark Trumbo.

The Red Sox now have Sale, Rick Porcello and Price stacked at the top of their rotation and are positioned to win the AL East for a second straight season.

Biggest Winter Meetings trades of all time

Beyond that -- and this is the key -- Boston could have a potentially dominant October rotation. This is why we love Dombrowski. He thinks big. He works fearlessly.

Dombrowski made this trade knowing it could look terrible somewhere down the line. To get Sale, he surrendered two of baseball's best prospects: infielder Yoan Moncada (No. 1 overall) and right-hander Michael Kopech. (No. 30 overall). They are now Nos. 1 and 2 in the White Sox system.

There are executives who wouldn't have followed through on this deal. No one would argue Sale's ability.

He's 27 years old and is signed for three more years at around $13 million per season. In the past three seasons, Sale has averaged 203 innings and 238 strikeouts with a 1.03 WHIP. He has averaged 10.6 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per nine innings.

Video: Dombrowski on trading Moncada to the White Sox

Is there risk? You bet.

This deal is about getting the Red Sox deep into October. If they don't at least go to the World Series in the three seasons before Sale hits free agency, it could look bad.

This is why Dombrowski is one of the most successful -- and most respected -- executives in baseball. He has always looked at prospects in something of a theoretical light.

Yes, they might be great. Yes, Dombrowski will be curious to see how they grow and develop. But Sale is the real deal.

Video: MLB Tonight on blockbuster Sale to Red Sox trade

Dombrowski's baseball lineage can be traced to Bill Veeck, and maybe that's part of the reason he has operated the way he has. His first job in baseball was with the White Sox in 1978 when a Veeck protege, Roland Hemond, was general manager.

Like Veeck, Hemond understood that baseball was entertainment, and that the Hot Stove season was about generating excitement. That's what Boston did on Tuesday, when it made the first blockbuster trade of the offseason.

At least a half-dozen teams -- the teams with the deepest farm systems -- made a run at Sale since the middle of last season. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made it clear he was waiting to be swept off his feet.

That's what Dombrowski did, just when it seemed the Washington Nationals might be closing in on a deal.

If the Red Sox don't do another thing, they might have won the offseason. That's not Dombrowski's goal. But it doesn't hurt either.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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