BOSTON -- With the Red Sox out of playoff contention, there is time for other pursuits, like picking the 2012 ex-Red Sox all-star team.
This year, there is a clear MVP: Adrian Beltre. The Rangers' third baseman was allowed by the Sox to walk as a free agent after the 2010 season so that the Sox could trade for Adrian Gonzalez and move Kevin Youkilis to third. Beltre helped the Rangers to a return trip to the World Series last season, and this season has been even better, batting .316 with 34 home runs and an OPS of .914 entering play Saturday. And he has been sensational over his past 26 games, a stretch that began with a three-homer game and continued two games later when he hit for the cycle. In that span, he has 15 home runs, 27 RBIs and an OPS of 1.344.
Here's the rest of the team:
2B -- Marco Scutaro. Traded to the Rockies for reliever Clayton Mortensen, Scutaro was subsequently dealt to San Francisco in a trade-deadline deal, and has been scorching the ball, batting .355 with an .835 OPS in 52 games for the Giants, who are on the verge of wrapping up the NL West.
SS -- Hanley Ramirez. Traded by the Marlins to the Dodgers in a deadline deal, Ramirez has 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 53 games in Los Angeles, which is trying to stay afloat in the wild-card race. He isn't the player he was three seasons ago, but he's only 28, so maybe he'll figure it out again.
3B -- Adrian Beltre. Did we mention he also has been playing Gold Glove-defense, committing only 8 errors? Only silver lining for Sox is that they used compensatory draft picks to select outfielder Jackie Bradley and catcher Blake Swihart, two of the system's shining stars.
LF -- David Murphy. Sent to Texas in the ill-fated Eric Gagne deal in 2007, Murphy has gone from being an extra outfielder to having a career year with the Rangers, batting .312 with a .388 on-base percentage while playing a solid left field and making a career-high 115 starts.
CF -- Coco Crisp. Traded in November 2008 to Kansas City for reliever Ramon Ramirez, Crisp has been rejuvenated with Oakland, stealing 84 bases over the past two seasons (35 out of 39 this season) while playing stellar defense. Athletics lead in the wild-card race; sensing a trend here?
C -- George Kottaras. Let go on waivers after the 2009 season, Kottaras was picked up by the Athletics in a trade deadline deal with the Brewers and in just 20 games has 5 home runs and 18 RBIs.
DH -- Anthony Rizzo. Traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, Rizzo was flipped to the Cubs a year later, where he has 14 home runs and an .820 OPS for Club Epstein since his midseason call-up, living up to predictions of future stardom.
SP -- Bronson Arroyo. Since his trade for mythological slugger Wily Mo Pena after the 2005 season, Arroyo has won 91 games for the Reds, seventh-most by any pitcher in that span. His 3.63 ERA in 30 starts this season is his lowest since his first season in Cincinnati, when he posted a 3.29 ERA in 35 starts. Reds are headed to the playoffs.
Closer -- Jonathan Papelbon. You can argue whether the Phillies overpaid him, but Papelbon has delivered 5 wins and 35 saves for the Phillies, who have had a disappointing season but are making a late run at a postseason spot.