The idea of Alex Cora returning to the Red Sox is so widespread, there's been no mention of a single other candidate to take the job full-time in 2021, assuming that Ron Roenicke is a one-and-done.
But there's a massive impediment to that possibility, and his name is Chaim Bloom.
The Red Sox chief baseball officer made it clear after Cora was suspended for the 2020 season that the former manager needed to undertake some serious image rehabilitation in the wake of a major cheating scandal in Houston and a minor one in Boston.
Beyond that, he had very little to say about Cora's future, which leads to some potential tension. What if ownership wants to bring Cora back and Bloom wants his own man? Will John Henry and Co. stand down in support of their new baseball boss's autonomy, or will they force their choice on him?
Put yourself in Bloom's shoes. Alex Cora made his life miserable over the last three years. In 2018, Cora's Red Sox romped to a division title while potentially benefiting from stolen signs in their video room. Bloom's Rays won 90 games, but lost 11 of 19 to the Red Sox and missed the playoffs.
In 2019, the Rays cruised to 96 wins and a wild card berth, where they lost a taut five-game series to the Astros. MLB believes the Astros had stopped stealing signs with the methods pioneered by Cora and others two years earlier, but who's to say some vestiges didn't remain even after he departed?
And then perhaps worst of all came this winter. Bloom was hired around Halloween with a massive to-do list: learn a new organization, trade his best player, slash payroll, build a competitive team without a farm system. Ten weeks later, he had a new priority: finding a new manager after Cora left the Red Sox in disgrace.
At just the moment when Bloom should've been trying to consummate what may end up being the most consequential trade of his tenure, no matter how long he's here, he instead needed to conduct a managerial search at a time when rosters and coaching staffs were set for spring training. On top of that, he had competition, because the Astros scandal had also put Houston (A.J. Hinch) and the Mets (Carlos Beltran) in the market for skippers.
A rookie chief baseball officer's job is hard enough even with a manager. Replacing one at that point in the offseason felt like a hazing ritual, especially while overlapping with negotiations to trade away former MVP Mookie Betts.
So forgive my skepticism that Bloom will welcome Cora back with open arms. He deserves a chance to put his stamp on the organization, and that starts with hiring his own manager.
Maybe he'll decide Cora is that guy, since the traits that made him a champion in his debut remain in place. Cora's smart, personable, confident, commanding, open to the incorporation of analytics, and a skilled messenger. He also knows the organization top to bottom. It only took him a year to prove that he can be the face of a franchise, and he will undoubtedly have suitors this fall, once his suspension ends.
I'm just not convinced the Red Sox will be atop the list. That should be Bloom's call.