A sportswriter for the Boston Globe spins out a cotton-candy trifle here, a hyperbolic look at baseball's most famous ""curse""--the bad luck that has plagued the Boston Red Sox since they traded away Babe Ruth one demented day in 1920. The facts are unassailable: in the 20 years preceding the trade, the Red Sox won five World Series; in the 70 years since, nary a one ( while the Yankees, who obtained Ruth's golden bat, have copped 29). Following a trend long-popular among Red Sox fans, Shaughnessy inflates this bad fortune to cosmic proportions: the trade is ""baseball's original sin""; the Red Sox fold of 1978, one of their more memorable collapses, is ""apocalyptic, cataclysmic""; even A. Bartlett Giamatti is quoted as saying that ""the Red Sox fulfill the notion that we live in a fallen world."" Shaughnessy pins the blame for the Ruth trade on the avarice of Red Sox owner Harry Frazee; as for the hapless team's subsequent history, demonic possession seems as likely an explanation as any. In 70 years, as the author points out, only the 1967 Sox--thanks largely to Yastrzemski's Triple Crown--are ""immune from criticism, ridicule, and regret."" An appealing gift for masochistic Red Sox fans, who can read once again about Wade Boggs' sex addiction, Billy Buckner's legs, and why Sox scouts turned their backs on a black teen-ager named Willie Mays. Those who root for more well-adjusted teams may find the incessant (albeit tongue-half-in-cheek) breast-beating tiresome.