As it turns out, Michael Brantley will not be joining George Springer, his former Houston teammate, in the Toronto outfield after all.
Those reports proved to be false. Brantley ended up re-signing with the Astros for a two-year deal, hours after multiple reports had him landing with the Blue Jays — a day after Springer was signed.
Still, the events of this week alone reflect a Red Sox team falling further and further behind the American League East.
Last week, the Yankees, who must be considered the division favorites at this point, retained D.J. LeMahieu and added Corey Kluber, who had been a Sox target.
The Tampa Bay Rays, defending division champion and A.L. champs, appear to have taken some steps backward with the loss of free agent Charlie Morton and the trade of Blake Snell. Still, the Rays are young, deep and talented, backed by a farm system still brimming with top prospects. If the Rays aren't the team they were a year ago, they surely are still superior to the Red Sox.
And finally, there's the emergence of the Blue Jays as a potential force. Toronto has been linked with a number of the winter's top free agents and struck with arguably the biggest free agent signing of the offseason with the addition of Springer. The Jays outbid the Mets with a six-year, $150 million offer to land the outfielder.
The Jays have also added free agent reliever Kirby Yates to their bullpen and are said to be still involved with Trevor Bauer. One more significant addition to their starting rotation could potentially put them on the level with the Yankees.
There's a limit to how meaningful "winning the winter'' is once the games are played, but there's little doubt that the Jays are being aggressive and are determined to be factor in the East race again. Backed by the resources of Canada's biggest media company and campaigning for a new downtown ballpark, the Jays are nothing if not highly motivated.
That leaves the Red Sox a distant fourth in the division -- assuming, that is, they can finish ahead of the rebuilding Orioles, something they couldn't do in 2020.