Red Sox fans -- be it in chat rooms or talk radio -- were openly distraught at the prospect of Ellsbury being moved, even in a deal for a pitcher as talented as Santana.
Ellsbury, who began the 2007 season at Double-A, filled in for an injured Manny Ramirez in September and instantly won over fans and teammates with his exciting style of play.
And starting with Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, Ellsbury took over center field from Coco Crisp for the rest of the postseason and thrived. In the World Series sweep of the Rockies, Ellsbury went 7-for-16 with four doubles and scored four runs.
The Red Sox, Mets and Yankees had been the most frequently mentioned suitors when it came to the Santana sweepstakes. The Red Sox spent quite a bit of time talking with Twins general manager Bill Smith during the Winter Meetings and multiple proposals were made, but a deal was never struck. The Red Sox were believed to have one package that involved Ellsbury and another that was headlined by lefty Jon Lester and Crisp.
Though a Josh Beckett-Santana 1-2 punch would have been downright scary for opposing teams, the Red Sox can take heart in the fact that they will have just about every key member back from the team that won the 2007 World Series.
"We have everybody back. That's a great sign," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia from his Arizona home. "I know we would have had to give up a ton to get [Santana] and plus trying to sign him to a long-term deal. Obviously that would have been a tough challenge. We have everybody back. Obviously, everybody is excited and ready to go. We're all familiar with each other and hopefully we can repeat the same thing we did last year. It's going to be a tough challenge but it's going to be exciting for us."
Pedroia -- fresh off winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award -- is pleased that fellow talented youngsters like Ellsbury and Lester aren't going anywhere.
"It definitely would have been tough," Pedroia said. "You build a strong relationship with your teammates. And it's not just those guys, if anybody else would have gone ... you build a bond with them, you trust them and it kind of brings home the point that the game is a business, and when you see guys get traded, you wish them the best except for when you play against them. But for this situation, for our case, I'm kind of happy that we have all of our guys and we're going to move forward."
Ellsbury said that he never lost focus, despite all the rumors.
"I talked to [manager] Terry Francona. He basically knew I was working hard in the offseason and he knew I wasn't really letting it get to me," Ellsbury said. "I'm just going out and getting ready for Spring Training. I knew wherever I was going to end up, I'd give them 100 percent, but definitely I'm happy to be with the Boston Red Sox."
If Crisp is not traded by Spring Training, an intriguing position battle with Ellsbury will unfold.
"It's fine with me," Ellsbury said. "Coco is a great player. Everybody wants that starting spot, and I think it will just make us that much better. Me, personally, going into the offseason, I knew I had to continue to get better and continue to improve. Any kind of ballplayer, you have to be willing to continue to get better.
"I'm sure Coco was doing the same thing, working hard and getting ready for Spring Training and the season. Whatever happens, whoever gets the starting nod, [the other guy] will be very respectful and just willing to help the team any way possible."
And the other side benefit for the Red Sox is that Santana appears headed to the National League side of New York instead of the Bronx.
"I think everybody is going to be happy all the way across. I think the Yankees are happy with what they have, with their young pitching, and we are as well," Ellsbury said. "I think the Mets will be very happy with Johan."
Even an ultimate competitor like Pedroia won't miss the challenge of trying to catch up to the nasty offerings of Santana.
In fact, Pedroia was working out with several Major League players at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz., when word started to leak out about the deal to the Mets.
"I was working out, and I said to a bunch of the guys I was working out with, 'I'm glad that guy is out of the American League.' And everyone started laughing except for the guys that are in the National League," said Pedroia. "That's definitely my first thought. That's great. Get him out of the American League. Obviously he's one of the best in the game."