NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The 2016 Winter Meetings were a tale of two Sox: Red and White.
Working from opposite ends of the talent acquisition spectrum, Boston and Chicago both found remarkable success: The Red Sox trading prospects for established players, the White Sox trading established players for prospects. In the process, Boston established itself as the extremely early favorite for the 2017 American League pennant. The White Sox turned the beginning of a rebuilding project into an impressive haul of prospects that should speed their climb back into contention.
Conveniently enough, these two clubs achieved a portion of their goals in a trade with each other. The White Sox dealt highly sought lefty Chris Sale to the Red Sox for infielder Yoan Moncada, MLBPipeline.com's top-ranked prospect, and three others, included hard-throwing Michael Kopech (No. 30). In a Carolina League outing last season, Kopech threw a pitch clocked at 105 mph.
With Sale, the Red Sox's rotation is now, to put it mildly, imposing. It includes two five-time All-Stars -- Sale and David Price -- and the 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello. As we speak, the Red Sox have seven starting pitchers of Major League quality and could conceivably trade pitching from a position of real strength.
But the Red Sox are now in a position where they don't have to deal unless they are overwhelmed by an offer. They can hang on to their pitchers and wait for the value of them to climb later on.
"I don't really have a big hole on our Major League club to address at this time, in our opinion," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.
That's because the Red Sox also bolstered their bullpen in a trade with Milwaukee, acquiring reliever Tyler Thornburg, while giving up third baseman Travis Shaw and two prospects. Thornburg projects as Boston's eighth-inning setup man. He comes off a fine 2016 season in which he took over the closer's role during the second half and pitched exceptionally well.
In the span of one day, the Red Sox added an elite starter, a proven relief pitcher and a quality defensive first baseman, who also has some power. You couldn't ask for a better performance out of one club at the Winter Meetings.
But over on the prospect acquisition side, the White Sox were also setting a high standard for December performance. The South Siders hated to part with a pitcher of Sale's value, but they did very well in the trade with Boston. They encored by doing even better in their next deal.
Trading outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals, the White Sox received in return three very promising pitchers. Lucas Giolito, the No. 3 overall prospect, is the highest-rated pitcher in the rankings of MLBPipeline.com. The White Sox also received Reynaldo Lopez (No. 38) and Dane Dunning, a first-round Draft choice in 2016, who ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Nationals' organization.
At the Winter Meetings, this deal was viewed as a coup for the White Sox. They gave up a regular player, but they hit the jackpot by acquiring the three pitching prospects. Thus, even though they had earlier traded Sale, White Sox officials were getting congratulations from other baseball people. As White Sox general manager Rick Hahn put it:
"The weird part for me is -- [White Sox executive vice president] Kenny [Williams] and I were talking about this -- as we walk around here, you have a lot of people congratulating us. Kindly, well-intentioned congratulations from scouts or executives of other clubs, and it's a little awkward for us because, yeah, we traded Chris Sale.
"That's not something you feel great about. That's not a feather in your cap, so to speak. But this is where we are, and I think people understand both within the game and certainly [based on] the reaction we've heard from White Sox fans -- they get this is a necessary step in the process."
It was not just a necessary step, it looked a lot like a terrific step.
So the White Sox, rather than easing into the rebuilding process, started off with a sprint. Meanwhile, the Red Sox bolstered their rotation, their bullpen and their infield defense, reinforcing the notion that they will be the team to beat in the AL. No pennants are won in December, but the two Sox teams could say at least that they won the Winter Meetings.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.