From May 1 to July 1, the Cubs and the White Sox were basically the same team--in fact, strangely so. Each had an outstanding #1 starter, a decent #2, an outstanding first baseman, an All-Star shortstop, some nice role players, and a rally killing black hole at second base. The Cubs had a better bullpen, the Sox better role players, but both were basically .500 teams throughout those two months. The Cubs then did what they've done of late--they stripped those assets and turned them into prospects by yesterday's trade deadline. They'll be bad, pick in the top 5 of the draft next year, etc. The White Sox stood pat and might even get some injured folks back. They'll finish around .500. The Sox are stupid.
It's often been said that baseball reflects America and it certainly does now because, like the NBA and the movie business, there's almost no reward for being in the middle class. The 2011 basic agreement changed the rules in many ways, but the primary result was to increase significantly the value of farm systems and lead teams to hoard picks and tank for high picks, like the NBA. The new culture also encouraged teams to sign good young players to longer term deals and avoid the free agent market, particularly because of the compensatory draft pick system. This was particularly true for major market teams, because they would never get compensation picks which the new system awarded to minor teams, like the Twins and Royals. It also limited international activity.
In a weird way, it's a back to the future goal. Strong farm systems feeding good players continually to the major leagues. Those systems should be supported by good drafts but also, and increasingly, by major league trade activity. If you're not going to make the playoffs, move the assets you have for prospects to strengthen your system, tank your team in the process, and gain better draft position to strengthen your system yet more. When your system produces, have the assets both to strengthen your club and trade to fill the holes your system didn't fill. To be caught in between--with a mediocre team and a mediocre farm system--is the worst of all worlds. You sort of compete, but the team isn't really all that good and you're simply drawing out the eventual rebuild.
Which brings us to teams like the White Sox (and the Phillies, Mariners, Reds, Marlins, Mets, even the Yankees, but they're an exception to everything). The Sox aren't good enough. Their farm system was bolstered by this last draft, but it's still kinda mediocre and good players are a long way away. Unlike some of the teams listed above, they'll never get rivers of cash from a great local media deal--they're the 5th most popular professional sports team in the city--or from a prematurely built ballpark, one erected well prior to the evolution of myriad ways to make your stadium pay. So, they're dependent on year to year streams and they try always to compete. But the environment's changed since 2011. They needed to strip to build this year, especially since the Tigers are already there, the Royals are much further along the curve, and the Twins will roll past the Sox in a year or two. The Phillies are even worse off (although they have a better media market in the long term). The White Sox, Mets, and Phillies needed to strip to build and did not.
The most interesting experiments at this year's deadline came from the Cardinals and Red Sox. The Cardinals are always so good, I hesitate to indict their moves, but these make little sense to me. They hit ungodly well with runners in scoring position last year and made the playoffs. That statistical quirk corrected itself this year and they're not a good offensive ballclub. So, they traded for more pitching. Huh? I assume they think Taveras will hit in an everyday role with Craig out of the way. I don't know if you should count that much on a rookie. Look, the Cards have lost their best player to injury, they had some guys with off seasons, the Brewers and Pirates are pretty good--I would not have stripped the club, but I'm not sure you trade Joe Kelly, a fine young pitcher and a good guy, to retrieve a year that I'm not sure can be retrieved.
The Red Sox are trying to rebuild on the fly--that's hard to do in this system. They traded assets for major league or nearly major league ready guys. Given their rivers of cash, they may be able to do this, but it'll require winning the free agent war for Max Scherzer, the great Detriot pitcher, in the off season. Given the likely weakness of the Yankees and Rays next year, and the fact that Toronto always finds a way to lose, the Red Sox may be okay. But it's certainly an interesting experiment.
In general, though, it does not pay to be the middle class in baseball. The White Sox need to figure that out.