As the Boston Red Sox open the 2023 season Thursday at Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles, they seem to be a more sensibly constructed group than we’ve seen in years.

A mix of left and right-handed hitters at every position? Check. Versatile fielders who can mix and match depending on the needs of a given day? Check. A whole bunch of arms who can give the Red Sox innings as either a starter or out of the bullpen? Check and check.

The pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly. Now the question is will that puzzle wind up being more like a 20-piece children’s toy or an intricate, award-winning masterpiece?

The Red Sox do not enter the season as championship favorites. They are not favored in the AL East and they’re not even favored to make the playoffs. On paper, the Red Sox aren’t among the most talented teams in baseball, but the roster has been meticulously put together to ensure Manager Alex Cora has the ability to push every button he needs to get the most out of his team.

If things work out, this team could prove greater than the sum of its parts. We’ve seen it here before.

It might look different from what fans have gotten used to. The days of David Ortiz and J.D. Martinez mashing from the designated hitter spot are long gone. Johnny Damon and Mookie Betts aren’t walking through that door and slotting it at leadoff every day. We might see dozens of different lineup combinations and some unorthodox bullpen management, but unlike recent years when it often felt like the Red Sox were stuck trying to jam square pegs into round holes, this year’s club is built to encourage creativity.


Start with the DH spot. Justin Turner is not a stereotypical bruiser like Martinez, but the nice perk he brings is the ability to play both corner infield positions.

That might not seem like a big deal, but if Rafael Devers or Triston Casas ever need a day off their feet during the dog days of summer, Turner being able to step in to help keep them fresh could pay off big in the long run.

Cora will have the same option at virtually every position on the diamond. Christian Arroyo, Kiké Hernández and Yu Chang can all play both middle infield positions, and eventually once Adalberto Mondesi returns from injury, the Red Sox will also have the option to move Hernández off shortstop and back into center field for the day if needed.

It’s a stark contrast from two years ago, when the Red Sox traded for Kyle Schwarber and tried to play him at first base – a position he’d never played – because they had no other way of getting his bat into the lineup.

Even without much semblance of flexibility, that 2021 team still came within two wins of reaching the World Series, which is a testament to that team’s talent and Cora’s managerial abilities.

Does this group have a run like that in them as well? We’re about to find out.

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