The Boston Red Sox took the MLB world by surprise this season, snatching the American League Wild Card and later advancing to the AL Championship Series. This came after back-to-back disappointing seasons and a mostly reserved offseason.

Boston got back on track in 2021 to the point where they’re a legitimate competitor in the AL once again; the mere fact that they took the Houston Astros to six games in the ALCS is impressive in and of itself. The problem? Them returning to the playoffs next season is a complex matter due to a variety of factors at play.

Here’s why the Red Sox have a hazy path forward.


Boston Red Sox reside in an ever-improving AL East

Prior to even discussing the Red Sox’ roster, the imminent threat to Boston building on its 2021 campaign is their division, the AL East.

Yes, Boston upset the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the AL Division Series. On the other hand, two of the games ended in walkoff fashion and the Rays’ roster is a well-oiled machine. Offensively, Tampa Bay has sluggers who haven’t approached their prime like Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena, and Wander Franco. This offense is accompanied by a well-versed and versatile pitching staff.

The New York Yankees have made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. They’re one of the better teams in the AL on a yearly basis thanks to their amplitude of power hitters. Now they have a sturdy starting rotation with upside as Nestor Cortes and Jordan Montgomery made strides in 2021. Looking to finally break through and win the AL, the Yankees could be poised for a lively offseason.

The Toronto Blue Jays won 91 games and came in fourth place in the AL East. They have an overwhelming offensive attack with a plethora of young stars. Meanwhile, they finally have a dynamite starting rotation with the acquisitions/revivals of Robbie Ray and Jose Berrios over the last two years.

Ironically, Boston finished ahead or beat all of their divisional foes in the playoffs. That said, 2022 and beyond is a different story than 2021. Some of those teams have room for growth in the standings, specifically Toronto. The Yankees were one win away from hosting the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game, and the Blue Jays were one win against Boston away from edging them out of the playoffs.