By landing Chris Sale, the Red Sox announced that they’re the AL’s team to beat

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This is an important offseason for the Boston Red Sox, perhaps even a pivotal one.

David Ortiz, the face of the franchise, has retired and the Red Sox, who entered the winter loaded with prospects but clearly needing big-time major-league reinforcements to get them over the hump in the postseason, had to make a choice — stand pat and let the talented young players develop, or go for it in 2017.

The Red Sox made it clear Tuesday that they're doing the latter. You don't trade for Chris Sale unless you're all in.

The Red Sox didn't hold back in acquiring Sale from the White Sox, and for that, they'll start the 2017 season with the best rotation and likely best roster in the American League.

You're doing pretty well when your third-best starter is the reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Acquiring a pitcher of Sale's quality via trade also leaves the door open for the Red Sox to make a big free-agent play for a bat in the coming days and weeks.

In a league where the Yankees are being cost-conscious, the Indians won't be able to keep up with spending, the Tigers, Royals, Blue Jays, and Orioles look to be static or trending down, and the Rangers, Mariners and Astros are more than a few players away, the Red Sox stand alone as the favorites to win the pennant this year.

We should have seen this coming — you don't hire Dave Dombrowski unless you want to win now.

The former Tigers and now Red Sox executive is zigging while the rest of the baseball world is zagging. Conventional wisdom around baseball has finally come to the understanding that young, team-controlled players are the best value in the game, and while each prospect is a gamble, it's easier to hit the jackpot when you have many bets going.

Dombrowski doesn't subscribe to this idea. He never has.

They don't call him Dealin' Dave for no reason — this is the guy who traded for Miguel Cabrera, after all.

But this might be Dombrowski's most audacious move to date. In all, the Red Sox gave up their Nos. 1, 5, 8, and 28 prospects for Sale, who is under team control until the end of 2019 at a bargain rate of $38 million.

That $38 million for the length of the contract – not for one year — a number Sale might have been able to command on the open market, had he been a free agent.  has finished in the top six of Cy Young voting for the last five years.

This is a pitcher who has finished in the top six of Cy Young voting for the last five years. A pitcher who strikes out 10 batters per nine innings in his career. A pitcher who posted a 1.037 WHIP and six complete games last year.

There's no other way to put it: Sale is a game changer on a team that's already cholk full of them.

Barring injury, the Red Sox will start the 2017 season with a 1-2-3 starting pitching punch of David Price, Sale, and Rick Porcello. Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez will likely round out the rotation.

No offense to the Mets, Indians, Cubs or Giants, but that's the best rotation in baseball. Add in a bullpen that will return its closer and a lineup that was the best in baseball last year and should be expected to be atop the league again in 2017, even without Ortiz, and you have the makings of a juggernaut.

The Red Sox have made their big move, and they might not be done yet. The only question that remains is if another team will match their splash and challenge them for the title of AL favorites.