How the Red Sox can climb back out of their vortex of ugliness

The dramatic competitive retreat of the Boston Red Sox was probably inevitable to some degree because of choices made five, four and three years ago. But the rapidity of the team's decline is still stunning, given that 22 months ago, one of Major League Baseball's cornerstone franchises had its best year ever, 119 wins with the regular season and postseason combined -- the second most in MLB history. And now, 2020 might be the Red Sox's worst year ever.

The departure of Alex Cora, one of baseball's best managers, and the trade of Mookie Betts accelerated Boston's spiral into the vortex of ugliness in a year of transition. But through Saturday's games, the Red Sox had the worst ERA at 6.10, with opponents hitting .289 -- the worst in the American League by a margin of 25 points. Only the Seattle Mariners had given up more walks than Boston's 89 -- an average of nearly 4.4 per game.