BOSTON -- The real news of Stephen Drew being traded to the Yankees isn't that the rivals made a trade for the first time since 1997.
It's that Xander Bogaerts is moving back to shortstop for the Red Sox and Will Middlebrooks will get a chance to reclaim his spot at third base.
General manager Ben Cherington said that Middlebrooks, who hasn't played for Boston since May 16 due to a fractured right index finger, will be activated for Friday's game against the Yankees.
"If we're really serious about building another [winning] team and trying to become as good as we can as quickly as we can, well, what do we need to find out the rest of the way to do that?" said Cherington. "One of the things that we wanted to do if we could was to find a way to let Bogie go back to short and give him an opportunity to play there a lot the rest of the way and give Middlebrooks an opportunity to come up and play a lot at third.
"Both those things will happen, partly as a result of the Drew trade -- not that other guys won't be in the mix at those spots, too. That was one thing we wanted to try to accomplish the rest of the way."
Though Drew was instrumental during Boston's World Series run last year, particularly on defense, Boston didn't re-sign him in the offseason after he rejected a qualifying offer. The left-handed-hitting shortstop remained a free agent into the season, and the Red Sox re-signed him on May 21.
At the time Boston reacquired Drew, Middlebrooks was injured and some depth was needed on the left side of the infield.
But right around that same time, Brock Holt emerged as a solid and versatile player who could hit and play all over the diamond.
With Boston seemingly falling out of contention over the past 10 days, Drew became expendable.
The Yankees sent infielder Kelly Johnson, who is currently on the disabled list with a groin injury, to the Red Sox in the trade.
It was a rare transaction between the rivals.
"It's a unique set of circumstances," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. "One of our two teams has to be, one has to be in a playoff mode and the other -- in my opinion -- the other one has to be rebuilding to some degree. That's obviously what happened on the last one that our franchises did. There's a great deal of respect between the Red Sox and Yankees, both of our sides. It's an amazing rivalry, but certainly very careful when we do business with each other. That's an obvious statement."
The last time the Sox and Yankees consummated a trade was Aug. 13, 1997, when Mike Stanley returned to New York in exchange for Tony Armas.
"It just so happened the Yankees were the team that fit and it fit for them. It sounds like he might play a little bit more second base there than short, but we just worked it out today," said Cherington. "That one happened obviously late and was the last thing we did. I like Stephen, we all like Stephen. He's a good player. It hasn't worked out the way any of us wanted it to, certainly the way I wanted it to. We hope it works out for him there. The Yankees thing wasn't an issue in that particular conversation."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.