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Looking Back: The Red Sox at the Trade Deadline

12.30.09 at 7:11 am ET

(WEEI.com is counting down the ‘€œTop 10 Things We Couldn’€™t Shut Up About In 2009,’€ with the trade deadline deal for Victor Martinez — and efforts to acquire Roy Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez and Felix Hernandez — checking in at No. 6. Here is a written, visual and audio look at a frenzied midsummer trade market that resulted in the Sox acquiring an All-Star catcher/first baseman.)

No. 10: Bruins getting bounced by the Hurricanes

No. 9: Garnett’€™s knee injury alters Celtics’€™ fate

No. 8: The drama between Crowley and Gates Jr. and No. 7: The downfall of Steve Phillips

No. 6: The Red Sox reshape at the trade deadline

The names that surfaced in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline were enough to leave the heads of Red Sox players and followers alike spinning. The Sox proved singularly ambitious in the trade market, exploring deals for seemingly every star-caliber player in the majors.

That was a reflection, in part, of the fact that the Sox commenced the second half of the season with a thud. The team went 4-8 at the start of the second half, with culprits to be found all over the field. The pitching rotation was a mess, thanks to the injury to Tim Wakefield, the banishment of Daisuke Matsuzaka to Fort Myers to work his way back into shape, and the completely ineffectual performances of John Smoltz and Brad Penny. The offense, meanwhile, was in a miserable state, with Jason Varitek, Jason Bay and J.D. Drew all amidst dreadful slumps, Mike Lowell playing irregularly while recovering from a D.L. stint for hip maintenance, David Ortiz amidst a season of both struggle and suspicion thanks to the revelation about his positive test for use of a performance-enhancing substance… The wheels were coming off the season at a startling pace, resulting in the Sox going from three games up in the A.L. East at the All-Star break to 3.5 games back of the Yankees less than two weeks into the start of the second half.

The Red Sox front office made no effort to hide from its struggles. And so, the team pursued answers on any number of fronts.

The Sox pushed hard to acquire 2003 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. They tried to convince the Padres to relinquish slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The team made an empty-the-pantry effort to acquire starter Felix Hernandez from the Mariners.

In order to acquire any of those three players, the Sox were prepared to part with the cream of their prospect crop. A deal for any of those three players would have required the inclusion of right-hander Clay Buchholz, along with several other top minor-league arms. The Sox were willing to engage in such franchise-altering moves in order to salvage a season for a team that had shown immense promise before sinking into immense struggle.

But ultimately, the Sox could not wrangle any of those top players from those clubs. Instead, hours before the trade deadline, Boston consummated a deal that represented an apparent fallback plan, acquiring Cleveland catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez in exchange for swing-man Justin Masterson and minor-league pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. In many respects, it ended up being the perfect deal for the Sox.

The Sox needed insurance both at catcher (in case Varitek never emerged from his injury-riddled slump) and at a corner infield spot (given the uncertainty of Lowell’s health). Martinez’ versatility addressed both concerns.

Moreover, because the Sox were able to part with very good pitching prospects who nonetheless ranked in their second tier (or, in the case of Price, perhaps a bit lower) of developing hurlers, they were also able to upgrade their rotation significantly thanks to the breakout second-half performance by Clay Buchholz, whom the Sox were able to retain (something that would have been impossible had the Sox dealt for Halladay, Hernandez or Gonzalez).

Martinez not only performed brilliantly down the stretch — hitting .336 with a .405 OBP, .507 slugging mark and .912 OPS with the Sox — but he also remains a critical (and inexpensive) part of the 2010 team thanks to the contract that he signed with the Indians. (Martinez will receive a base salary of $7.7 million in 2010.) In his short time in Boston, he emerged as a team leader, clutch contributor and undeniable presence. He has already been declared the everyday Red Sox catcher for next season, and Martinez has made no secret of his interest in staying with the Sox beyond next season.

Victor Martinez, Red Sox Pregame: Joe Castiglione talks with the new Sox C/1B http://audio.weei.com/m/25588250/victor-martinez-red-sox-pregame.htm

Victor Martinez, Postgame Guest: Joe & Dave talk to the new Sox slugger http://audio.weei.com/m/25599050/victor-martinez-postgame-guest.htm

Victor Martinez: Victor Martinez joins The Big Show to discuss playing time and the big series with the Yankees. http://audio.weei.com/m/25990910/victor-martinez.htm

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