Wally the Green Monster waves as the Boston Red Sox baseball equipment truck departs Fenway Park on Monday on its way to the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida. AP Photo/Steven Senne

Monday was Truck Day in Boston. That’s the day the Red Sox send cases of baseballs and baseball gear south for Fort Myers, Florida.

It’s a day that’s supposed to mark the end of a long, cold winter in Boston and New England.

Of course, this winter isn’t like any other winter in our lifetimes. It’s been long and dark, but not just because of the weather. We are all awaiting the end of the pandemic, keeping our eyes on the vaccination lines while reading about variants and mutations.

Baseball is not waiting. After an ill-fated attempt by owners to delay the start of the season by a month, it is full speed ahead. Camps will open on time next week, and by the end of the month there will be Grapefruit League games played.

At JetBlue Park in Fort Myers there will be about 2,400 fans allowed for preseason games. Those fans will be socially distanced, sitting outside in the sun.

If it seems like this has all come together quickly, it has. Most people in the industry thought there would be a delayed start. The players didn’t. The players’ union said putting off the start of spring training would cause an unnecessary and potentially dangerous delay for players — especially pitchers — who have already ramped up workouts.

So next week those pitchers will be working at fields across Florida and Arizona.

The Red Sox will go into this season ranked fourth of five teams in the American League East in the eyes of most experts. The Yankees remain the favorite, with the Rays coming off a World Series appearance. The Blue Jays are loading up in the north.

The Red Sox feel they’ve improved with the signings of Kiké Hernandez, Garrett Richards and Matt Andriese, as well as the trade for Adam Ottavino. It’s not a finished product, but the Sox feel it’s an important step in the process of rebuilding a team that went from a record-setting championship season in 2018 to a last-place finish in 2020.

“We have a competitive team, we think, in 2021,” team President and CEO Sam Kennedy said in a virtual town hall I hosted at Fenway Park last week. “A chance to be really, really good in the American League East and hopefully get to October and surprise people, but we are looking for a sustainable model.”

That’s why the Red Sox feel Frank German — the prospect the Yankees threw in with Ottavino — was an important part in the rare trade between rivals. Ottavino helps now, but the hard-throwing German can help long-term.

It’s why Connor Seabold, the younger pitcher acquired with Nick Pivetta from Philadelphia last August, is someone you won’t see in April this year but could be a key acquisition in Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom’s plan.

“There are parts of that that are a little unsatisfying,” said Bloom, “because we want everything to be great right now. The way I look at it and the way I hope our fans look at it, it’s setting the bar really really high. It’s making sure not just that we want to win today but that we want to look to tomorrow and say we can do this again. And we can do this again the next year. And that’s really hard to do. But that should be the goal here.”

Now the work begins in earnest. The Red Sox will be better in 2021. It would be nearly impossible to be worse than the 2020 team that posted some of the worst pitching numbers in the history of the franchise.

Alex Cora is back to manage the Sox after serving a one-year MLB suspension. When I asked him what to expect from this team, he quoted recently retired Dustin Pedroia when he laid out his philosophy for the 2021 Red Sox.

“Show up every day, work at your craft, and play every day like it’s the last day of your career,” Cora said. “If we do that, good things are going to happen.”

The first step is staying healthy and being able to report to work at all. In that, major league players are no different than the rest of us. They’ll try to beat the odds and a rapidly spreading virus as they settle in for six weeks of preseason. If they can do that, they can start worrying about beating teams in the AL East.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN.


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