Boston pitcher David Price reacts Sunday night after giving up a two-run homer to Gio Urshela of the Yankees in New York. AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Timing is everything.

The Boston Red Sox picked the worst possible time to play their worst baseball of the season. They were embarrassed by their archrivals in New York over the weekend, being swept in a four-game series and falling a staggering 14 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East.

The deficit doesn’t really matter. Realistically the Red Sox have been out of the division race for a long time. What’s more concerning is Boston fell 6 1/2 games out of the AL wild-card race.

The free fall came in stunning fashion, immediately on the heels of Boston’s best week of the year. The Red Sox had won 5 of 7 against the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees, and instilled hope they might put together a run to the playoffs.

There was also hope that the front office would make a move at the trade deadline to bolster the team’s October bona fides. But there was no move. Dave Dombrowski, the team president, opted to stand pat, saying he refused to overpay for a relief pitcher that may or may not make a difference.

Dombrowski was quick to point out he still believed in this team, which is why he didn’t sell off any established players.

“If I did not believe that (the Red Sox would make the playoffs), you would trade players away,” he said. “You’d be in a position where you wouldn’t try to go for it to win. There would have been ample interest in a lot of our guys who are free agents in a couple of months. People that are on expiring contracts, those type of players move all the time at this time of year if you’re in a position where you don’t think you can win. But we kept our group together because we think we can win with this team.”

You can’t help but wonder if he might have acted differently if the eight-game losing streak came before the trade deadline. This team easily could have become a seller and flipped established players for prospects to help the future.

Instead, Manager Alex Cora is stuck trying to get this team to figure out how to salvage the remaining eight weeks of the season. The Rays made nearly a dozen deals in July, and the Sox dropped six games behind them in six days as Tampa Bay went on a winning streak.

Losing four straight to the Yankees this weekend felt eerily similar to the epic five-game Yankee sweep at Fenway Park in August 2006. That was essentially the knockout punch for a team that had made the playoffs three straight years. The 2019 Red Sox also are looking for a team-record fourth straight trip to the postseason. That felt improbable by the time the Sox left the Bronx.

This team is in danger of becoming the most disappointing Red Sox group since 2011, a team that fell apart in September and ultimately led to the departure of General Manager Theo Epstein and Manager Terry Francona.

A year later that group was blown up in a trade/salary dump with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That was an August waiver deal that saw Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett sent west.

There are no waiver deals this year; they were done away by MLB over the winter. So Dombrowski will have to wait for the winter to address this issue. His first decision will be to see if he can sign Mookie Betts to an extension. If not, he’ll have to at least consider trading him and getting something in return.

Then there’s J.D. Martinez. He can opt out of his contract after this season.

It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox without two of their best hitters. Yet it also was hard to imagine this team not making the playoffs in 2019.

If timing truly is everything, then it’s time to reconsider this roster and its future. There’s too much talent for this team to play this poorly.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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