If you look strictly at the big picture, Chaim Bloom’s plan is working.
After inheriting a bad situation in 2019, Bloom stripped the roster during the pandemic-shortened COVID season and rebuilt the club into a contender on the fly. The Red Sox came within two wins of reaching the World Series last fall and now, despite a disappointing first half and a disastrous July, are still only three games out of the last playoff spot and well positioned to make a run.
Looking ahead, the Red Sox have close to $100 million in payroll coming off the books this offseason and should have the flexibility to make some big moves. On top of that, the farm system has gone from worst in baseball in 2019 to No. 11 entering this season according to Baseball America, and it should climb into the top 10 once the next update is released.
Put it all together and the future is bright, right?
So why doesn’t it feel that way?
What the Red Sox are missing is a sense that anything is possible. Fairly or not, it’s often felt like one of the richest clubs in the sport is being tied down by self-imposed limitations, and that feeling has left players and fans alike frustrated with the direction of the franchise.
The bad vibes have clung to the Red Sox like a stench, and they’ve clouded what should be a time of promise and opportunity.
The seeds of discontent were first planted when the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts, a foundational homegrown superstar who the Red Sox could have built around for the next decade. That decision has loomed large over the franchise ever since, and it’s heightened the anxiety over Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers’ own uncertain futures.
Basically, if the Red Sox wouldn’t commit to Betts, and they seemingly won’t commit to Bogaerts or Devers, then will they commit to anyone?
It hasn’t helped that fans are seeing other contenders across the sport lean into their resources, and now the San Diego Padres, hardly one of baseball’s marquee franchises, are suddenly throwing around their weight like they’re the George Steinbrenner-era New York Yankees. They’d already signed Manny Machado and homegrown superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. to $300 million contracts, and now they’ve gone and brought in future Hall of Famer Juan Soto too. Heck, they even added elite closer Josh Hader, slugging first baseman Josh Bell and found some extra cash to extend starting pitcher Joe Musgrove too.
Those are the kind of bold moves the Red Sox have always been willing to make, yet when Soto became available Boston was never brought up once as a possible destination.
That’s a problem.
Even when the Red Sox have made a splash there’s been a lingering undercurrent of unease. Signing Trevor Story this past March was a big move, one the club badly needed to make. Yet without a resolution to Bogaerts’ situation it also felt a bit off, as it was hard not to wonder if Story was brought in as Bogaerts’ replacement.
Bloom has often said his goal is to build a club that can compete for a championship every year, and by freeing up financial resources and building a strong farm system he’s effectively laid the foundation for what’s to come. But at some point the club also needs to erect the central pillar that everyone else will be built around.
Until that happens everything else Bloom builds will feel like a house of cards.
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