→ Alex Speier explains how the Red Sox went from Worst-to-First

I finally got around to reading Alex Speier's excellent piece on how the Red Sox engineered their turn around. The whole piece is worth reading, but I especially like his takes on John Farrell:

Farrell returned the focus squarely to the field. Players could focus on maximizing their performance on the field. There were no distractions to pull them away from the focused preparation for an opponent. To the contrary, through the efforts of Farrell and his carefully selected coaching staff, the Sox were able to formulate plans to attack opposing teams, and an information-hungry roster embraced every piece of information that was shared. 

the Sox's commitment to depth:

Yet perhaps the best embodiment of the Sox' commitment to build depth happened not in the offseason but instead in the early days of spring training. The Sox had signed Mike Napoli, but given the uncertainty about the health of his hips and David Ortiz' Achilles, the team needed a talented bat as protection for both players.

Enter Mike Carp.

The Sox were believers in his offensive potential based on his minor league track record and what he'd done in 2011, hitting .276/.326/.466 with 12 homers in 79 games with the Mariners. (He struggled in 2012 due to a shoulder injury incurred on Opening Day.) When he was designated for assignment by the Mariners, the Sox zoomed into the picture in an effort to land him in a deal that required them to part only with a low six-figures sum.

The result? Carp hit .302 with a .368 OBP, .537 slugging mark, nine homers and 28 extra-base hits in 81 games. On Friday, he had two of the critical at-bats of the game, accepting a bases-loaded walk to push across the second run of the game and later lining a two-run single to left-center (improving his line with runners in scoring position to .352/.397/.611) to help give the Sox separation from the Jays.

and team chemistry:

“I think it's [a team] full of a lot of guys that, for whom baseball is really important. For whom baseball is important and winning is important and they take it personally and they understand that when you come together prepare and win as a team. It's a feeling like nothing else and it's more than any personal accomplishment or any individual accomplishment,” said [Red Sox GM Ben] Cherington. “It happens organically over time. When you're close to it, maybe you don't see the change as much because it happened slowly, day by day. But it felt like in spring training, there was a core there that just loved to play baseball and prepare and do things the right way, and were motivated. The guys who were here before were motivated to put last year behind them, and the guys that came in new were motivated to do something special. They set out to do that. And this is an important step.”

As I said, this piece is really well done and is a must read for any Red Sox fan.