|The Red Sox are well-positioned to win another title in 2014 (ESPN)|
1. Starting Pitching
The Red Sox have a really deep rotation that should rank among the league's best. Their starting five projects to be Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront, with Chris Capuano avaliable for spot starts. All pitched effectively in 2013, and all except Doubront are former All-Stars.
Lester was dominant during the postseason and may be ready to reclaim his ace status as he enters his contract year, while Buchholz was making a case for the Cy Young award before he was sidelined for the summer. When Buchholz is healthy, they form a strong 1-2 punch at the top of Boston's rotation with a resurgent Lackey and capable Peavy providing depth. The Sox also have an impressive collection of pitching prospects (Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, and Anthony Ranaudo) that could be ready to join the staff in the near future.
Boston had the best record in baseball one year ago primarily because of their elite offense. Their 853 runs scored were tops in the major leagues (nobody else scored more than 800). The Red Sox lineup is tremendous top-to-bottom, blending speed, power, and patience. Even without Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, their lineup figures to be among the strongest in baseball because of their ability to grind out at-bats and get good pitches to hit. They'll be especially formidable if Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts make good on their potential and Will Middlebrooks builds upon his strong second half. Their success would help stretch out Boston's lineup and take some pressure off the heart of the order, comprised of veterans Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
3. Young Talent Ready to Step Up
Bogaerts, baseball's second best prospect at the age of 21, is a superstar-in-the-making and preseason favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Middlebrooks and Bradley showed signs of improvement late last year and should be better than they were during their miserable early season slumps. Doubront lowered his ERA from 4.86 in 2012 to 4.32 last year and could get it below four if he shows better command. On the verge of his third season as a starting pitcher, he could be poised for a breakout.
The Red Sox have plenty of pitching and plenty of hitting, plus defense, solid baserunning and a smart manager (John Farrell) at the helm. What more could you ask for?