You might remember that ESPN <3ed the Red Sox in 2011. What a difference a year makes.
Of 49 ESPN contributors polled, just one (Matthew Berry, a noted Yankee hater) has Boston winning the AL East. One other (Karl Ravech) has them going to the World Series, and winning it. And just 16 total analysts have the Sox making the playoffs, even considering there are now two Wild Card spots.
You might remember that there are two former Sox now on the ESPN payroll: Terry Francona and Curt Schilling. Tito thinks the Sox will make the playoffs (you have to wonder how conflicted he must have felt saying they'd be better without him than they were with him last year). Curt, however, does not. Schilling's Bobby V hatred (a topic of discussion lately given some critical comments he tossed out) is really showing itself now.
16 out of 49 might seem like a reasonable number -- but what a contrast to last year. The BEST TEAM EVAR was, according to ESPN, a lock: 33 of 45 analysts picked them to win the World Series. All 45 had them winning the division, and 42 of them had the Sox going to the World Series. The takeaway: ESPN analysts take free agency winners very seriously.