They're so familiar, so much a part of the postseason fabric, yet so far removed from their last meeting only a decade earlier.
The Red Sox and Cardinals both have gone through significant change since 2004, and they bring to the 109th Fall Classic a sense of history that so deeply defines their franchises.
As the Road to the World Series heads back to a familiar locale at Fenway Park, there is plenty of history to be found between a couple of teams that have been standouts in their respective leagues since the dawning of baseball time. Over those epochs, by the way, these two red-clad wonders have constructed quite the intense rivalry.
There have been a handful of special matchups that have racked up World Series meetings over the years, and this is one of them. Everyone knows the usual suspect in those lineups -- that is, the Yankees -- and the Bronx Bombers show up a lot at the top of the list of most frequent battles for baseball's top prize, bringing some of their mid-20th century crosstown rivals with them.
What the 2013 World Series is bringing to the October table is a pairing that matches two of the most familiar foes not located in the five boroughs -- that region that has been so important and omnipresent in the game's most important series of any year.
To the numbers: Red Sox-Cardinals has moved into a tie for fourth place among the World Series matchups ever seen with its fourth clash. It's also the first matchup to be repeated in the past decade.
You have Yankees-Dodgers (11) at the top of the all-time list, followed by Yankees-Giants (7) and Yankees-Cardinals (5). Just to take a little breather of perspective, it's been some 33 years since Yanks-Bums (1981), 51 since Yanks-Giants (1962) and 49 since Yanks-Cards (1964).
The Cardinals and Red Sox are meeting in the World Series for the fourth time, tied with three other matchups for fourth-most common all-time.
Well, it's only been a decade since the last Red Sox-Cards meeting, and they have 1967 and '46 behind that, too, so this isn't the first rodeo for these two storied franchises. Cards-Sox is now tied with A's-Giants, Tigers-Cubs and Indians-Braves with four meetings, and only A's-Giants has a tie to the other three Yankees series.
Point is, this is a classic Fall Classic before it begins. Just check your history books.
But if we're all being honest here, it's hard to forget about the last meeting between the Cards and Sox. There was something special brewing in 2004, something that was felt in the final moments of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, starting with a Dave Roberts stolen base. And the Cardinals couldn't stop it, losing two in Boston before being swept at home for Boston's first World Series title in 86 years.
But that was a long time ago, another World Series championship for the Red Sox and two of them for the Cardinals since then. David Ortiz is still around, but that's about it, unless you count Mike Matheny -- except he's the Cardinals manager, not their catcher now.
All that said, on a day when the league winners were headed for center stage, the biggest news coming out of the AL was that Tigers manager Jim Leyland, one of the most engaging and effective managers of his era, was calling it a career. Just two days after Detroit fell short of a second straight World Series berth, Leyland called it off after 22 years on the top step of the dugout, eight with the Tigers.
Boston manager John Farrell, who masterfully guided the Red Sox to an amazing turnaround season all the way to the pennant, had just reached out to Leyland to congratulate him on the Tigers' showing in the ALCS before hearing the news.
"And then to see the announcement today, to listen to him and know that early September this was very clear in his mind, that's surprising," Farrell said. "My gosh, when you take a step back and you see someone who's managed for what, 22 years, it's a hell of a career, and I'm sure one he's extremely proud of."
While details of how even those first two games scheduled in Boston will play out are fuzzy, the Game 1 matchup is set: Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright vs. Red Sox lefty Jon Lester in a matchup of veterans who have been there before.
What this series brings, other than a matchup that is among the most familiar in baseball annals, is two teams that have proven so very true the old adage in baseball -- you have to make adjustments. The Red Sox had gone awry in 2012, and they got a bunch of gamers to go with their money players, and here they are. The Cardinals had several injuries and potholes along the way this season, but they had some rookies waiting in the wings, and here they are.
Going in, there's a mutual respect.
"You watch what they've been able to do compared to a year ago and you respect that kind of fight," Matheny said. "That's the kind of team they have. They're a gritty team. I was listening to a lot of things that they had to say, and it sounded very similar to a lot of things that we take pride in -- that this is about us, it's not about an individual. It's about doing the little things right. It's about family. It's us considering each other and thinking about the team, and those sort of things ring real true with us and what we've been able to do. You look at them and they had a strong season just like we did. It'll be a well-fought series."
It's Red Sox-Cardinals again. Like never before.
2013 MLB POSTSEASON
Wild Card: Rays 4, Indians 0
Division Series: Red Sox beat Rays, 3-1 | Tigers beat A's, 3-2
Championship Series: Tigers vs. Red Sox, Boston leads, 3-2
NL Division Series
Game 1: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
Game 2: Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Pirates 5, Cardinals 3
Game 4: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1
Game 5: Cardinals 6, Pirates 1, Cardinals win series, 3-2
Game 1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1
Game 2: Braves 4, Dodgers 3
Game 3: Dodgers 13, Braves 6
Game 4: Dodgers 4, Braves 3, Dodgers win series, 3-1
AL Division Series
Game 1: Red Sox 12, Rays 2
Game 2: Red Sox 7, Rays 4
Game 3: Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Game 4: Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Red Sox win series, 3-1
Game 1: Tigers 3, A's 2
Game 2: A's 1, Tigers 0
Game 3: A's 6, Tigers 3
Game 4: Tigers 8, A's 6
Game 5: Tigers 3, A's 0, Tigers win series, 3-2
NL Championship Series
Game 1: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (13 innings)
Game 2: Cardinals 1, Dodgers 0
Game 3: Dodgers 3, Cardinals 0
Game 4: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 2
Game 5: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 4
Game 6: Cardinals 9, Dodgers 0, St. Louis wins series, 4-2
AL Championship Series
Game 1: Tigers 1, Red Sox 0
Game 2: Red Sox 6, Tigers 5
Game 3: Red Sox 1, Tigers 0
Game 4: Tigers 7, Red Sox 3
Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3
Game 6: Red Sox 5, Tigers 2, Boston wins series, 4-2
WORLD SERIES (All games on FOX)
Game 1: Cardinals at Red Sox, Wednesday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 2: Cardinals at Red Sox, Thursday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 3: Red Sox at Cardinals, Saturday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 4: Red Sox at Cardinals, Sunday, airtime 8 p.m. ET, game 8:15
*Game 5: Red Sox at Cardinals, Oct. 28, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
*Game 6: Cardinals at Red Sox, Oct. 30, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
*Game 7: Cardinals at Red Sox, Oct. 31, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
* - if necessary
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.