One year ago today, the Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis in a move that had every bit as much to do with the popular three-time All-Star as it did with his replacement.

Will Middlebrooks had arrived in the majors several months ahead of schedule and was making an impact that, for at least a little while, rivaled Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout. Initially, the Red Sox meant for Middlebrooks' promotion from Triple-A Pawtucket to be temporary, only until Youkilis made his return to the lineup after a bout with a strained lower back. But the kid hit a grand slam in only his third major league game, then belted a pair of home runs and racked up five RBI one night later in Kansas City, and became the first player ever with at least six extra-base hits and nine RBI over his first four major league games.

Suffice it to say, Middlebrooks wasn't going anywhere.

Even after Youkilis returned and playing time became less predictable, Middlebrooks went 25-for-70 (.357) with four home runs, including a dramatic two-run shot in the eighth inning June 21 to tie a game against the Marlins at Fenway Park. That homer caught the attention of none other than Hall of Fame-bound Chipper Jones, who came to Fenway a few nights later with the Braves and took time out of his farewell tour to note that Middlebrooks "looks like he's got a promising career ahead of him."

And so, upon dealing Youkilis to the White Sox for the minimal return of pitcher Zack Stewart and infielder Brent Lillibridge, general manager Ben Cherington focused as much on what the move meant for Middlebrooks as bidding farewell to one of the last remaining members of both the 2004 and 2007 World Series championship teams.

"We just feel like he should be our third baseman right now," Cherington said in a press conference to announce the trade. "He just needs to be himself. Like every good big league player, there'll be tough days, but he's earned the right to be our third baseman and that's how we'll go."