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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, July 13, 2012 at 12:30 PM

The Boston Red Sox enter tonight’s series against the Tampa Bay Rays with arm’s reach of relevance or revolt. They sit right at the .500 mark in a very tough division, and are still only 2.5 games out of the final wildcard spot as we begin the second half of the season. Many statheads believe this is the most logical borderline AL team to get hot over the next three months because of mathematical indicators. Yet:

*There were many reports over the break in both the Boston and national media about disharmony in the locker room. The manager doesn’t talk enough with his coaches. The coaches don’t talk enough with the players. The manager talks to some players but not others. This isn’t a team where everyone’s on the same page. More like 20 different books!

*The general manager had to quell rumors that he might A: blow up the team to focus on the future; B: blow up the future to focus on the present. Disgruntled fans and grouchy media types can’t make up their minds. Should they trade stars for prospects and try to be great from 2013 to 2020? Should they trade prospects for stars and try to win this year and over the next few? Nobody talks about that with winning teams. Those kinds of clouds float over underachieving disappointments. That’s what the Red Sox have been this year.

*The Sox closed the first half of the season playing some of their worst baseball of the year. They dropped five of seven on a West Coast swing to Seattle and Oakland (the two NON-contenders in the West). Then, they dropped three of four at home to the New York Yankees. They may be within 2.5 games of a Wildcard spot, but they’re not performing like a playoff caliber team.

That’s what makes these first seven days of the second half so important.

Tonight-Sunday: Boston at Tampa Bay

Monday-Thursday: Chicago White Sox at Boston

That’s a tough slate. Both teams are head of Boston in the standings. Both teams will be trying to start the second half well so THEY can stay in the pennant race. The Red Sox better perform or the cauldron of discontent will boil over quickly and spoil the season. And, if they DO perform well (particularly 5-2 or better), that may be just what the doctor ordered for getting everything on track. A shaky team would get a huge confidence boost. And, they’d be inflicting losses on teams they’ll be fighting with for a Wildcard.

Adding more drama to the mix…the Red Sox and Rays have become blood rivals in recent years…and there was some bench clearing mayhem the last time they got together. If Boston can’t get up for THIS series, you can stick a form in them.

It’s our take that what you learn over the next week regarding the Red Sox will pay off for you often over the subsequent month. The market always moves slowly to new developments. Oddsmakers will likely underprice the Sox at a new, inspired, red-hot level. And, they’d definitely overprice the Sox in a slump because that’s just standard fare in the markets. Boston HAS to be hot to make money for backers. If they’re not, they perform horribly against market expectations that are ruled too much by media hype and payroll size. Remember, Boston has a very tough slate in the second half of the season because of the unbalanced divisional schedules. They’re reaching out for relevance while standing on the edge of a cliff!

The VegasSportsMasters have several big plays on tap for Friday. We wouldn’t be surprised if one of our legends was stepping out in tonight’s Red Sox/Rays series opener. Among the advertised highlights:

*Kelso Sturgeon has a 50-unit High Roller Blowout of the Week available for just $20. Not just a win…but a scoreboard BLOWOUT in what Kelso expects to be the most one-sided game of the night.

*Wayne Root has created a 3-DAY NO LIMIT SPECIAL that gets you major releases Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a one-time payment of just $35. Note that the No Limit games went 5-1 last week! If you haven’t tried out W.A.R.’s baseball service, this is a great way to get involved with the Vegas legend.

*Coach Ron Meyer welcomes you back from the break with a HALF-PRICE SPECIAL! Pay just $10 for a Diamond Double (2 games) and his top Over/Under release of the evening. That’s about three bucks a pick from the only handicapper in the industry who knows what life is like in professional locker rooms.

Be sure you remember to check the ads on the home page every day for big play blockbusters now that baseball is back in session. Complete details on each industry legends’ slate are available on the “buy picks” pulldown. Many are offering early-bird specials for football season as well. We’re less than a month away from the start of the NFL Preseason!

Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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