If you think Rosebud was just a sled or Moby Dick merely a fish, then stop reading right now. We’re about to go all English major-y on you in a search for the great symbolism of the Red Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Yankees last night.

Specifically, let’s talk about the final confrontation of the evening, Mariano Rivera’s three-pitch strikeout of Jackie Bradley Jr. with Jonny Gomes on third.

On one level, the at-bat pitted past against present, young against old, though both were making debuts of a sort.

The 43-year-old Rivera hadn’t pitched since last April, just days before blowing out his knee shagging fly balls in Kansas City. His career appeared finished, but the future Hall of Famer refused to hang ’em up.

Instead he rehabbed for nearly a year, culminating last night when Bradley stepped to the plate as the tying run. Rivera had already walked Dustin Pedroia and allowed a screaming double to Gomes, and Yankees fans didn’t even want to contemplate what a blown save in his return would signify.

Bradley is a newcomer in the more traditional sense, a veteran of all of three big league games. He had just turned 5 when Rivera debuted in May 1995, and the 22-year-old’s experience with the Yankee great’s cutter was limited to TV and perhaps the occasional video game.

“I guess I really haven’t imagined facing it,” Bradley said. “You know, it does move.”

When Bradley measured his first practice cuts, this was about more than just a random game in April. It was about two franchises heading in opposite directions, one desperately trying to maintain its relevance behind its oldest, proudest players, and another hacking its way out of the wilderness behind a remade roster and an exciting young prospect who represents broader hope for the future.

On this night, age and experience prevailed, with Rivera saving a game for 40-year-old Andy Pettitte for a record 69th time.