The Reds chances this year will likely revolve around three areas:
1. health of the rotation
2. progression of young players- Mes, Frazier, Cozart, Hamilton
3. health of Bruce, Votto, and to a lesser degree Phillips and Ludwick.
If the rotation is healthy, they will keep the Reds competitive and in most games. A healthy Reds rotation has no glaring weakness. With a deep bullpen there is depth in that area to absorb a loss or two to pen arms and still be effective.
The Reds need their core young position players to improve their offense to fill in for the loss of Choo and to become dependable, cost controlled regulars. They do not need to be spectacular but if Frazier and Mes could become dependable 5/6 bats it would be a tremendous gain. Hamilton will likely struggle at times but he will need to be given a chance to adjust to the MLB level, just like most rookies.
Lastly if Votto or Bruce were to be lost for a long stretch it would really create a hole in the lineup that likely would not be overcome ala 2012 without an amazing job by the starting rotation.
One area that I think the offseason acquisitions have helped with is to give the Reds a less anemic bench. It would be nice if they had a backup SS with a bit of a bat but almost every team would say that. Last season's bench was really weak and was the area that for me was the most disappointing that no midseason move was made to address. Hopefully with the new options and depth it will be more productive. Given the limitation to budget and market it was an area that could be addressed the most realistically without crating long term damage to the team and its farm system.
Can they compete this year? Definitely. Could this be a transition year that shows the need to make adjustments to reload to be able compete in 2015 and beyond ? Quite possible.