After ending the shortened 2020 season with a 24-36 record and a last-place finish in the American League East, the Red Sox were not a popular playoff pick entering the current campaign. Sure, the team reunited with World Series-winning manager Alex Cora, but its offseason was otherwise a fairly low-key one. The big-market Red Sox’s largest free-agent guarantee went to utility player Enrique Hernandez, who signed a two-year, $14MM guarantee, and they didn’t make any blockbuster acquisitions on the trade market. They also knew they would spend a sizable chunk of 2021 without left-handed ace Chris Sale, who isn’t quite 13 full months removed from Tommy John surgery.

With a forgettable 2020 and an understated winter in their rear-view mirror, the Red Sox began this season poorly with a three-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Orioles. At that very early point, it looked as if Boston might be in for another lean year, though the team has since done a 180. The Red Sox climbed out of their hole with a stunning nine straight victories, and while they have lost three of five since then, they’re still an impressive 11-6, atop the American League and 2 1/2 games up in the AL East. They earned their latest victory Monday in an 11-4 drubbing of the White Sox and ace Lucas Giolito, whom they chased in the second inning after pummeling him for eight runs over one-plus frame.

The Red Sox have been a well-rounded outfit during their sizzling start, as their offense and pitching have combined to give the club the AL’s top run differential (plus-28). As of this writing, the Red Sox are second in the majors in wRC+ and third in runs scored, owing largely to their three best hitters (J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts) and solid complementary performances from Alex Verdugo, Christian Vazquez and Christian Arroyo. Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi has carried their Sale-less rotation, and their bullpen has received great work from the likes of Matt Barnes, Matt Andriese, Phillips Valdez and Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock, among others. Between its starters and relievers, Boston owns a respectable 3.70 ERA/3.89 SIERA.

The rest of the AL East hasn’t looked nearly as sharp as the Red Sox to this point. The Rays, the defending division champions and pennant winners, are in second at 8-8. The injury-riddled Blue Jays are 7-9, as are the Orioles, though Toronto is far more likely than Baltimore to threaten Boston over a 162-game schedule. And then there’s the last-place Yankees, who have done seemingly nothing right during a surprising 5-10 start.

In most cases, it’s much too soon to crown a club or write one off, but the Red Sox have looked like the class of their division thus far. Do you think they’re good enough to hang in the AL race the rest of the way?

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