This version of the Boston Red Sox (7-7) is the one many fans feared would be taking the field in 2024. The melancholy that is currently permeating Fenway Park was portended by ownership's quiet offseason and insistence to largely fix the team's glaring issues in-house rather than in the free agent market. The beam of light in all this darkness is supposed to be Rafael Devers.

But his latest injury update is just magnifying the current state of uneasiness.

“I’m shooting for Monday. He’s shooting for tomorrow (Sunday),” manager Alex Cora said, per's Christopher Smith. “So we’ll have a debate about that. I just want to make sure he’s OK. He’s too important for us. If he goes out there, he plays, he feels it, what’s the point? At that point, we’ve got to put him on the IL. So I’d rather just wait and be patient with him.”

On the surface, there is no reason to panic yet. Based on Cora's comments, the plan is to keep the 27-year-old star off the injured list right now. Though, the fact that there is even a concern that this lingering shoulder issue could become something worse is surely unsettling for Red Sox Nation.

Boston desperately needs Devers' big bat in the lineup on a consistent basis. If his health status impacts his performance (batting .184 with two home runs in 38 at-bats) or sidelines him for a lengthy period of time, fan morale may reach a new low.

As it stands, the Sox's impressive 10-game road trip to start the 2024 campaign feels like a lifetime ago after what has been a miserable four days of Boston baseball.

Red Sox cannot afford any more bad breaks right now

“The Sox don't just lose, they raise it to an art form.” These words were uttered in the 2004 film, “Fever Pitch,” in reference to the team's 86-year World Series drought (1918-2004). Before the Sox erased a 3-0 deficit versus the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series and ultimately broke the Curse of the Bambino, agonizing defeats and heartbreak were the norm for this city.

After winning four titles in the last 20 years, the organization is not supposed to be suffering such afflictions. Sure, dry spells are unavoidable, especially in this sport, but the word ‘ineptitude' should not apply to a big-market club that is only six years removed from its last championship.

And yet, following Friday's embarrassing 7-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, that movie line rings incredibly true today. The Red Sox committed three errors and made multiple other mistakes that turned a should-be competitive baseball game into a complete circus.

Incompetent defense continues to ravage Boston, with the infield being a particular source of frustration. Routine double plays are being botched at an alarming rate, and opponents are taking advantage. The Sox could have taken two out of three against the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the week, but self-sabotage (and Colton Cowser) still has them winless at home.

A healthy Rafael Devers is crucial after Sox's recent slump

Boston Red Sox third base Rafael Devers (11) hits a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at Angel Stadium.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Although it is far too early to put the 2024 season in the casket, there is little to suggest that Cora's crew can clean up the defense. Trevor Story, the team's best infielder, is likely out for the rest of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery. The forthcoming debut of winter acquisition Vaughn Grissom might not improve matters, either, since he comes with his own defensive limitations.

Rafael Devers is not immune to this fielding epidemic. If the Sox were not paying Masataka Yoshida $90 million, the third baseman might already be an everyday designated hitter. Though, he can do what guys like David Hamilton, Pablo Reyes and Emmanuel Valdez cannot– be a reliable gamebreaker on offense.

The two-time All-Star has slugged over .500 in each of the previous three seasons and is nearly a .280 hitter for his career. If he can recover from this shoulder ailment, the productivity should presumably increase by a sizable amount.

But if Devers is in and out of the lineup throughout 2024, there might be nothing the Red Sox can do to stop the bleeding. They hope to get by without him on Saturday versus the Angels and treat the Fenway Faithful to their first victory celebration of the year.