Soon, the curtains will likely be closing on this iteration of the Boston Red Sox roster, one that has delightfully surprised.

As the Red Sox open their 2022 season Friday in New York with renewed hope and expectations, it could also be the last Opening Day with three of the organization’s biggest stars.

Xander Bogaerts will be making his ninth straight Opening Day start at shortstop, the most in franchise history. Nathan Eovaldi will be making his third straight Opening Day start on the mound after being the unquestionable ace of the staff the last two seasons. And J.D. Martinez will look to build on his 162-average of 37 homers while in a Red Sox uniform.

This could be it: one last hurrah.

Bogaerts will likely opt out of his team-friendly contract after the season. Eovaldi and Martinez are both set to be free agents. And by this time next year, the Sox could be looking for an ace, a shortstop (Trevor Story?) and a designated hitter.

There’s plenty of pressure on this team to succeed, particularly after shelling out $140 million to sign Story, but most importantly because this could be the final year with some cornerstone players.


The last time the Red Sox had an Opening Day starter not named Eovaldi was in 2019, when Chris Sale took the mound with worrisome low velocity that would eventually derail his season and, to this point, his career. Eovaldi has carried the torch ever since, first in 2020, when he was one of the few impressive players on an otherwise-lackluster roster, and then in 2021, when he carried the rotation and led the American League in WAR.

The last time the Red Sox had a full-time DH other than Martinez was in 2017, the year after David Ortiz retired. Hanley Ramirez took over and it was a disaster, as the Sox went from first to ninth in overall DH production.

And the last time the Sox had a starting shortstop other than Bogaerts was in 2013, when Stephen Drew held it down through October, when a 20-year-old Bogaerts was summoned from the minor leagues to play third base in the postseason. He’s started Opening Day at shortstop every year since.

It’s hard to find a franchise player like Bogaerts. The thought of losing him for any reason, particularly if the team is simply deciding to invest elsewhere, will undoubtedly be difficult for the fanbase and players alike.

“I said before, in a big game, there’s a lot of managers out there who will say give me (Bogaerts) at shortstop and we’ll see what happens,” Manager Alex Cora said. “He hits a homer in the first inning and it’s 3-0 and then he makes all the plays at shortstop and you advance.

“I just feel like people probably think that he doesn’t care defensively. It’s the other way around. His goal is to win a Gold Glove.”


Bogaerts has always been a picture-perfect face of the franchise. He’s never one to complain, put anyone down or back away from difficult questions in difficult moments. It’s why he helped recruit Story to the Red Sox this year, even though that could mean Story will replace Bogaerts next year.

“Everybody here knows how much Xander Bogaerts cares about winning and cares about this organization,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “He showed it again in terms of this process. You could feel it.”

On the field, Bogaerts has been as good as most hitters in baseball, especially since Cora took over and started preaching a more aggressive plate approach.

Since Cora joined the Sox in ’18, Bogaerts has become a monster at the plate, setting career-highs in ’19 with 33 homers and 117 RBIs. He’s hit .299 in that stretch with an .894 OPS that ranks first among all qualified shortstops and 14th among qualified hitters of any position.

“I think he’s one of the best shortstops in the game, I do,” said closer Matt Barnes. “You see lists of top-5 shortstops and I feel like he’s never mentioned, but to me he’s one of the best shortstops in the league without a doubt.”

The clubhouse dynamic has been different since David Ortiz retired, but there’s a feeling that Bogaerts has helped foster a similar vibe that is welcoming to newcomers and inclusive to players from every country. Speaking four languages helps, too.


“He was taught by the guys the right way when he came up and has since carried it on, that mentality, that role, into what he is today,” Barnes said.

The concern is that if the Sox do let Bogaerts walk, they’ll have seen arguably their two best players of the last decade, Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, depart Boston in the midst of their prime because the Sox didn’t want to pay them a fair market rate.

“Work hard, win trophies, and get paid elsewhere” is a tough sell for young players in the system.

Further, continuity in the clubhouse matters.

“It definitely matters,” Barnes said. “He’s a guy who has been here a long time, won here, been through not only front offices, managers, coaches, different players. His ability to carry on what the organization stands for and what we expect in Boston, showing up every day, playing hard, competing in championships, he’s a guy who can do all of that.”

It’s Bogaerts’ team now.

And in perhaps the last year with Bogaerts, Eovaldi and Martinez, this group is on the hunt to bring home the organization’s fifth title of the millennium, and perhaps the last of this generation of Red Sox stars.

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