2021 MLB playoffs: Three questions for Boston Red Sox after falling just short of World Series

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Boston Red Sox, but an early-season surge put them, for a time, atop the American League East. And, despite a late-summer slide and a COVID-19 outbreak, Boston managed to secure a wild-card berth on the final day of the regular season.

The Red Sox then got red-hot in October, beating the New York Yankees in the wild-card game and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, ultimately falling just short of the Fall Classic, losing to the Houston Astros in a hard-fought ALCS.

Whether you see this season as a surprise or a disappointment, David Schoenfield takes a look at where the Red Sox stand and answers three key questions for the club moving forward to 2022 and beyond.

Boston Red Sox

Notable free agents: Eduardo Rodriguez, Adam Ottavino, Christian Vazquez ($7 million club option), Garrett Richards ($10 million club option or $1.5 million buyout), Kyle Schwarber ($11.5 million mutual option with a $3 million buyout), Martin Perez ($6 million club option, $500,000 buyout), Jose Iglesias, Hansel Robles, Marwin Gonzalez.

The Red Sox will undoubtedly pick up Vazquez's option, although the catcher's offense fell off from 2019 and 2020. They will probably buy out Richards. He pitched well enough in relief, but struggled in 22 starts with a 5.22 ERA. Schwarber will likely decide to test free agency, coming off a much better season (.266/.374/.554, 32 home runs) than last offseason, plus the presence of J.D. Martinez and emergence of Bobby Dalbec in the second half (with Triston Casas in the minors) means the Red Sox appear set at DH and first base.