I definitely think the combination of the signings of Smoltz/Penny to the rotation and Saito as well as the trade for Ramon Ramirez means they are prepping to deal Masterson to the Rangers for one of their three catchers. I could definitely see a Masterson for Max Ramirez deal coming about since I imagine the Rangers would prefer Buchholz to Masterson and the Sox would prefer Teagarden to Ramirez/Salty I think they'll find middle ground. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see Bard as an everyday catcher in Boston and I think the Sox would rather sacrifice the "leadership" qualities of Varitek for a bat that isn't like plugging a pitcher into the lineup.
All in all I think the quantity of signings with incentive based contracts makes the Sox a serious contender in the East once again this year. Sure some regression is certainly possible from Lester/Pedroia but how about a rebound from Ortiz? How about continued development from Ellsbury/Lowry? Maybe the unthinkable happens and Drew is able to accumulate over 450 AB's like he did in 06 and 07? Or what about Mike Lowell posting numbers somewhere between 06 (his first year in Boston) and 07, his big year in Boston. A lot of variables to the Sox lineup, but a very stable bullpen and a deep rotation with a solid amount of upside. Also, the sheer volume of starters they have means that when teams undoubtedly are looking to acquire arms at the deadline, the Sox may have some trade bait to bolster their team as well.
Call me crazy, but I think the Red Sox are the favorites in the AL-East with the Rays a solid second and the Yankees still 3rd. Yankees fans have to be thrilled with Tex and C.C. but Melky was awful last year, Matsui was dinged up and is not getting younger, Posada missed most of last year and plays the most demanding position on the field and Nady had a career year. The top of the Yankees order is downright scary, but I just don't see the depth, and most importantly I don't see the depth in the rotation or the bullpen. Who is the bridge to the 9th for Mo? Can Joba hold up for a full season as a starter? How will Hughes rebound from being hurt/ineffective for almost all of last year? Get beyond C.C. and Burnett and I'm not a huge Wang fan with an aging Jeter at SS with limited range and an average at best 2B in Cano behind a GB pitcher. Burnett is a health risk every year, and has never responded well following a 200+ IP season and missed a great deal of the year following signing a fat contract with the Jays. Hughes has a great deal of talent, but will he begin fullfilling it this season or not? If any of the starters go down, are any Yankee fans actually delighted with the idea of Ian Kennedy or Sergio Mitre (post suspension) filling that hole? Too many glaring question marks for me.
I also think the Rays offense catches up to its defense and pitching this year. Pat the Bat is a huge upgrade over the mess they trotted out at DH last year (Floyd, Gomes, Aybar, etc.). Upton had offseason surgery to repair his labrum, so he could show some of the pop he had in '07, and some growth with more experience has to be expected. Longoria has a chance to continue to improve at the dish, and will be up all year, and possibly healthy all year as well. Price in the rotation should be a HUGE upgrade over Edwin Jackson who was borderline worthless. They do have a huge question mark as to who will close in '09 since I'm not entirely sold on Balfour/Wheeler/Percival/Howell in a closer roll. However, I do like Balfour/Wheeler/Howell in the pen, especially if one of them siezes the closer roll and runs with it, or if they happen to acquire a veteran closer (another reason I think the Sox signed Saito, though I never heard rumors of him signing there). As others have said, the AL East should be interesting (and I'm a Giants fan, so no homerism coming from this guy