Many years from now, we’ll look back at the tons of times that Alex Anthopoulos surprised the baseball world with a trade no one predicted. He has a portfolio full of times when he brought in a player no one had on the radar.

The latest entry has arrived.

The Braves on Saturday acquired left-handed starter Chris Sale and cash from the Red Sox for infielder Vaughn Grissom. The Braves received $17 million in the deal.

“We think he’s a playoff-caliber starter, and that’s what we were in the market for if we could acquire that this offseason – someone that we felt could start playoff games for us,” Anthopoulos, the Braves’ president of baseball operations, said Saturday over Zoom.

Sale had 10-and-5 rights, which are given to players who have accrued at least 10 years of major league service time while spending the past five years with the same team. With this, Sale earned the right to veto any trade. He accepted the one to the Braves, who should be a perennial contender for years to come.

Sale, who turns 35 in March, is a seven-time All-Star who won a World Series with Boston in 2018. Sale, who has a lifetime 3.10 ERA, once was one of baseball’s best starting pitchers. In recent seasons, injuries have plagued him, which makes this deal risky.

But in true Anthopoulos fashion, this creative trade structure perhaps mitigates some risk because the Red Sox will still pay the majority of Sale’s salary.

Sale, who in 2019 signed a five-year extension with Boston, is owed $27.5 million for next season, but $10 million is deferred money. Sale’s 2024 salary will be offset partially by the $17 million sent by Boston, which means the Braves aren’t paying the majority of it.

This question remains: Can Sale stay healthy? Between 2020 and 2022, Sale only started 11 games. He logged 20 last season.

In 2020, he underwent Tommy John surgery, which also cut into his 2021 season. In 2022, he suffered a stress fracture in his right rib cage. In 2023, Sale dealt with a stress reaction in his left shoulder blade.

The Braves’ medical staff reviewed Sale’s medical reports and felt good enough about them for the club to complete the trade.

“No one can guarantee anything, right?” Anthopoulos said. “It’s something that you either sign off on or you don’t. But you realize anyone you acquire, there’s risk. No one can guarantee health for anybody. At the end of the day, ultimately, you’re willing to take on an element of risk, and that’s for the front office to make that determination. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. We’ve had guys be injured before, and that’s part of it, that’s the reality of it.

“But at the end of the day, when we factored everything in, it was a shot that we wanted to take. We really like his ability. We love the makeup and the person and what he brings to our clubhouse. You guys know that that’s a big deal for us, and that was a very important part of it. We think he’s an absolute perfect fit with our group, and we think when he’s out on the mound, he’s a playoff-caliber starter. We’ll get to know him, and we’ll do everything we can to put him in the best position to stay healthy and have success.”

The top four in the Braves’ rotation is as follows: Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton and Sale. The club should have a healthy competition for the fifth spot, with names such as Bryce Elder and AJ Smith-Shawver seeming like good candidates. And don’t forget: At some point, Hurston Waldrep, the club’s first-round pick from the summer, eventually could debut.

The Braves have shown an ability to use their depth to keep starters healthy. They build in extra days for starting pitchers. At time, they skip a pitcher in the rotation to give him extra rest. They can use Smith-Shawver, Waldrep, Allan Winans, Dylan Dodd, Darius Vines and others to keep Sale fresh.

Make no mistake: At one point, Sale was elite. From the time he debuted with the White Sox in 2010 to the end of the 2018 season, Sale posted a 2.89 ERA (not including the postseason). Using primarily a sinker, slider and change-up during that time, he struck out 1,789 batters.

More context on the strikeouts: From 2015-19, Sale’s strikeout rates ranked in the top five in baseball in four of those five seasons. He hasn’t quite reached that level since the injuries hit him, but the Braves don’t need an ace. If Sale pitches relatively well, this trade should be a win for the team.

Sale also has postseason experience. Over 10 appearances, he has a 6.35 ERA, but the fact that he’s pitched in October is a nice bonus for the Braves, who are set up to contend annually. In 2018, Sale started Game 1 of the World Series for Boston.

In Morton, the Braves have a seasoned veteran who can mentor young pitchers. Sale is another such arm. Strider is young and Fried is older, but still relatively young. Ian Anderson and Huascar Ynoa are another two pitchers in their 20s who can benefit from veteran guidance.

“All the work we did on Chris Sale, people raved about the person, the work ethic, the competitor, the teammate,” Anthopoulos said. “I told him that. I told him that’s a huge part of what we do, that’s a huge part of players that we bring in. The ability and what he does on the mound is the priority, but that other piece, and the makeup and the clubhouse fit, is not far behind.”

This trade also ends Grissom’s time in Atlanta. That he was dealt didn’t come as a shock. His days here seemed numbered.

Earlier this month, the Braves acquired Jarred Kelenic to play left field. Not long after, they brought in David Fletcher to be the utility infielder. It became apparent that Grissom didn’t really have a defined role on the roster. At the same time, he was one of the club’s top trade candidates from its farm system.

“I’m really fond of him, and I’m not alone in that,” Anthopoulos said. “I can’t speak highly enough about him. That’s what made it a more challenging call to make because I’m so fond of him. So fond of the person, his character. He’s a really special kid.

“I think he’s going to have a fantastic career. It’s tough. It’s tough to part with a player like that.”

In a month and a half, the Braves will head to North Port, Florida, to begin their 2024 season. Once again, they will have World Series expectations. By adding Sale, they will arrive with a stronger group better positioned to win it all. Until spring training, and even after it starts, the Braves will continue trying to improve.

Who knows what might present itself?

After all, the Braves acquiring Sale classified as a stunner for fans and media.

“If you guys would’ve asked me, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be sitting here on Dec. 30 and we would’ve completed a deal,” Anthopoulos said. “In the offseason, I know people are always like, ‘Are you done? Are you still doing stuff?’ Other than the day after the World Series, that’s really the official start of the offseason, there’s no end of it because there’s still things that happen in spring training. I think as long as people are engaged and players are still out there, we’ll keep an open mind.”

Boston Red Sox's Chris Sale before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Saturday, April 1, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

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This is a 2020 photo of Chris Sale of the Red Sox baseball team. This image reflects the 2020 active roster as of Feb. 19, 2020 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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