Chaim Bloom faces the most consequential offseason of his Red Sox tenure this winter, and we'll have plenty of time in the coming weeks to dissect exactly what he might do.
But before the season officially comes to an end on Wednesday, it's worth taking a broad view of the task ahead, so here are three conceptual approaches Bloom should employ as the Red Sox rebuild in baseball's most murderous division.
1. Trade prospects
With a mandate to restock one of baseball's most barren farm systems, Bloom has focused his energy on Worcester, Portland, and points south. The result is a healthier minor league pipeline, but often at the expense of the big league club. No deal better exposed this tradeoff than sending productive outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers last winter for what turned out to be a pair of middling prospects -- one-dimensional speedster David Hamilton and one-dimensional slugger Alex Binelas.
That came one winter after Bloom effectively bought right-hander Franklin German from the Yankees by agreeing to assume the contract of reliever Adam Ottavino.
It's time to start moving the conveyer belt in the other direction, too. Imagine if he had traded outfielder Jarren Duran and/or first baseman Bobby Dalbec a year ago, as some in the organization advocated. He would've maximized value that has since cratered.
With tougher 40-man decisions looming this winter, it's time to stop hoarding prospects and start identifying keepers. Say what you want about Dave Dombrowski's carefree willingness to trade prospects, but he kept the right players, whether it was Rafael Devers (whom the White Sox wanted in the Chris Sale deal) or left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez.
If Bloom believes Ceddanne Rafaela is a future Gold Glove center fielder with pop, then keep him. If he believes his ceiling is utilityman, then deal him now while someone out there thinks he might be the next Mookie Betts. If he thinks Chris Murphy has solved his command issues, hold onto him. If he thinks he's just a left-handed Connor Seabold, then use him to upgrade the big league roster.
Not everyone the industry values is actually worth keeping. Exploit that gap without fear.
2. Make one impact signing for every two budget ones
Bloom's tendency to tinker at the margins is fine in isolation, but not when it represents the entirety of the offseason.
Signing Michael Wacha and Rich Hill this year for a combined $15 million should be a win. Even after fading down the stretch, Wacha still went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA. And despite being baseball's oldest pitcher (42), Hill ended up finishing second on the team in starts while outperforming his 4.41 ERA. No one should complain if one or both return next year.
The problem is that neither should be counted on for durability, and indeed, the club's fall from contention began when both effectively missed July. Had they been signed as complementary pieces behind a marquee name like Max Scherzer or Kevin Gausman, the Red Sox might've been able to weather the storm. Instead, the season fell apart when they got hurt.
Bloom can't keep putting his faith in flyer types to be foundational pieces. Imagine a bullpen with Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm setting up for closer Kenley Jansen, who instead signed a one-year deal with the Braves and then saved 40 games. At the very least, the Red Sox don't rank second in the AL in blown saves.
With money to spend this winter, Bloom should continue pursuing bargains, but they need to be counterbalanced by more established and talented players. Is my 2-for-1 ratio overly simplistic? Probably. But you get the idea.
3. Act quickly
Bloom waits on everything trying to find the perfect deal. It didn't benefit him with Betts, who was finally traded to the Dodgers in February of 2020 for a meager return. It didn't help at this year's trade deadline, when adding Eric Hosmer to address a gaping wound at first base felt about five weeks too late.
If Bloom sees players he wants, go get them. The easiest argument in the world is, "No." He knows who his yeses are, so target them and don't look back. When you've sprung as many leaks as the Red Sox, far better to be choosing from the best players on the market in December than the best of what's left in February.