Sox, Epstein still have work to do

BOSTON -- A cautionary note in the midst of all the giddiness:

The offense was not the problem. The Red Sox finished second in the American League in runs scored in 2010, second in slugging percentage, first in .OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Except in another season, 2006, when the club was ravaged by injuries, it never has lacked for big bats in the reign of John W. Henry I. That was the only time in the nine years of the Henry era that the Sox have finished lower than third in runs scored. They've finished first three times, second three times, and third twice. In '06, they were sixth.

Look at it this way: If you broke this down like a straight trade, Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez plus three highly regarded minor leaguers, including No. 1 pitching prospect Casey Kelly, plus a couple of hundred million, for Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, would the new acquisitions have received such unanimous acclaim?

Or might someone have said, "Um, let's keep Beltre and Martinez, hang onto the kids, save a couple of hundred million, and put some of that cash into the bullpen. The offense is just fine as it is, and will be even better when everybody is healthy, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are all around for a full season.''

Admittedly, a compelling argument can be made that the Sox needed a new left-fielder much more than they needed to keep their below-average catcher, that Gonzalez gives them the slugging successor to David Ortiz they so coveted, and Youkilis' ability to move effortlessly to third makes it painless to lose Beltre.

Plus, Crawford and Gonzalez are both younger, and will be major contributors long after Martinez and Beltre begin to fade.

You won't get any disagreement on any of that here.

But will that mean the Red Sox succeed with Crawford and Gonzalez in 2011 where they failed with Beltre and Martinez in 2010? Not unless the Sox do something about their bullpen, which they have insisted all offseason is a priority.

Click here for Gordon Edes' full column on the Red Sox bullpen needs.