"The biggest surprise for me as a G.M.," Epstein says, "is you spend more time as a psychologist than you think. A latent injury or a latent psychological injury is behind almost every underperforming player. If you can find it and address it, it's a huge advantage.
"That's the Number 1 competitive advantage—the human resource, the instructors and coaches. They get it. They bond with the kids. They care about them. They put themselves last. It's the exact same thing with teachers when it comes to education.
"That's why trading Rizzo, Kelly and Fuentes hurts. You're breaking the kid's heart. But if you're doing your job right, you're breaking 20 hearts—everyone who's touched this kid along the way."
Epstein personally called Rizzo, Kelly and Fuentes to inform them of the trade. The call to Rizzo, the cancer survivor, was especially difficult; Rizzo at first was so taken aback that he didn't talk. But he quickly found that same brave voice. "I'll always appreciate what you did for me," he said. "I'll always be a Red Sox."
Kelly was also stunned. The Red Sox had invested $3 million in him. They allowed him to play shortstop and pitch, a rare courtesy, before convincing him to give up hitting. But Kelly, whose father, Pat, has been a major league player and minor league coach, understood the thinness of the bonds of loyalty in the business of baseball.
When Epstein called Fuentes, he found excitement in the player's voice.
"We just made a trade," Epstein said.
"Oh, yeah? Who?" Fuentes replied.
"We're getting Adrian Gonzalez."