In baseball yesterday, the Sox traded Justin Masterson and two prospects for Victor Martinez. In the last four years, Victor has put up an OPS of 0.856, 0.879, 0.701 (an injury shortened 2008), and 0.832 so far this year. Now, these are good numbers but hardly elite slugger numbers. What does make him an All-Star, though, is that he's putting up these numbers mostly from the catcher position. In previous years, he's started ~125 games at catcher and ~30 games at 1B, but this year his split has been much closer to 1:1.
Essentially, the Red Sox now have five players for four positions: Lowell, Youkilis, Varitek, Martinez, and Ortiz to rotate through C, 1B, 3B, and DH (the ability of Youkilis to play both 1B and 3B, and play them well, in invaluable in this regard). Martinez, like Varitek, is a switch-hitter, although his vs. righty and vs. lefty splits are quite similar (Varitek is much better batting from the right side). Given the age of both Lowell and the Captain, Francona shouldn't have much trouble finding reasons to sit them as the season wears on. It will also be good to have a serious bat to come off the bench for pinch-hitting duties. As I wrote about at the All-Star break, the most serious concern for the Sox was giving too many at-bats to the Mark Kotsays of the world. Well, they've solved that problem, and given themselves some nice insurance if Lowell's hip acts up again.
As for LaRoche, well, we hardly knew ye. I'm not really sure that Casey Kotchman brings much more to the table, and I think he'll be playing the role of Doug Meintkewitz (nope, not looking up how to spell that), coming in off the bench as a late-inning defensive replacement. Whatever that is worth...
I think it is safe to say that, of all the teams in the AL East, the Red Sox did the most to improve.