Go ahead and add me to the list of people who think that sending Jackie Bradley Jr. down to the minors to start the season is a no-brainer. This post from Boston.com's Extra Bases blog sums up the details nicely, but the short version is that if the Sox keep Bradley at AAA for just eleven days, they get another year of service time out of him before he hits the open market.
Make no mistake, Bradley will go to free agency when he gets the chance - players don't sign on with superagent and evil villain Scott Boras because they're sentimental and looking for "the right fit." No, players sign with Scott Boras because he will get them the most money, and you get the most money by getting to free agency as fast as possible.
On the flip side, it's obviously in the interest of a team to keep their young stars from free agency as long as possible. While the major league minimum salary is eye-popping to the average American at just under half a million dollars, it's chump change to owners who hand out salaries six times that for mid-level relief pitchers and bench players - and it allows them to give big deals to players with more service time.
Sending Bradley down to the minors (here's a friendly reminder - he has played exactly zero games for Pawtucket) for less than two weeks allows the Red Sox to hang on to him for an extra year. If Bradley is as incredible a player as he appears, trading eleven measly days in April of what is expected to be a bridge year for an entire year of service time down the road is an obvious choice. I fully expect the Red Sox to make the prudent decision regarding service time - it fits their pattern - and when Bradley makes it to the bigs by the the end of April, I'll be first in line to buy his jersey.