Not to go all "I told you so" on folks, but who didn't see Andrew Bailey getting hurt from 500 miles away? In case you haven't heard, the Red Sox' recently acquired closer is out for 4-5 months after having surgery on his injured thumb. In a division that is so competitive, the Sox really couldn't afford to suffer this kind of blow. They let Jonathan Paplebon walk in free agency and got Bailey from the A's in a trade. That decision is looking like a poor one.
Bailey is no stranger to the DL. After winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2009, he's struggled to stay on the mound with consistency. He racked up 83 innings in his first season, but pitched just 49 innings in 2010 and only 41 last year. Andrew's maintained his effectiveness when he's pitched, so its not as if he's a diminished player talent-wise, it's just that he isn't someone who can be counted on to close a season's worth of games. Unfortunately, he will only be available for about half the season, similar to his performance the last two years.
How do the Red Sox respond? They made nice move to protect from this sort of thing when they traded for Mark Melancon of the Astros. He'll help solidify the situation as I expect him to move from the setup role to closer. Daniel Bard is the key question. He's transitioned from highly effective setup man to starter. Boston thought they had an abundance of high-leverage relievers, making it possible to make Bard a starter. I would suspect that they'll try to keep him there, but if the bullpen should struggle, moving him back to the 'pen is something I can see happening. This will put extra pressure on Alfredo Aceves, Michael Bowden and Franklin Morales.
How the team and these players adjust to their new roles will have a lot to say about how this division shakes out. Can Boston really contend with a bullpen that is so suspect in a division with the fire power of the AL East? The answer is yes, but their margin for error just got much thinner.