The Red Sox simply couldn't entrust what comes next to a lame duck.
The approaching offseason will reshape the organization for years. Sign or trade Mookie Betts? Find a taker for David Price, Chris Sale, and/or Nathan Eovaldi? Acquire young pitching despite a maxed-out payroll? Lock down J.D. Martinez before he tests the market?
Any one of those items could be franchise-altering. Taken together, they're a job for someone whose contract doesn't expire in 2020.
We now know that person won't be Dave Dombrowski. The midnight news dump that the Red Sox had fired their president of baseball operations could legitimately be portrayed as unfair — three division titles and a World Series crown don't buy much in the way of job security anymore.
But let's not kid ourselves. Building the next great Red Sox team was always going to fall to someone else, so the Red Sox decided to get a jump on the project.
Dombrowski did more with more, which isn't as easy it sounds, but doing more with less hasn't been his forte in two decades. This isn't 1997, and these aren't the Marlins. The Red Sox decided they needed a president of baseball operations (or, for simplicity's sake, general manager) who could serpentine his way through a transitional offseason without forcing questionable moves simply to save his job.
That's why the Red Sox turned over the baseball operations for the time being to the four-headed monster of longtime execs Eddie Romero, Brian O'Halloran, Zack Scott, and Raquel Ferreira. They largely represent the skills that Dombrowski doesn't necessarily feature, whether it's international scouting (Romero), picayune CBA knowledge (O'Halloran), analytics (Scott), or player development (Ferreira). Those are the areas an organization must lean on once it has maxed out its payroll if it wants to remain competitive.
They're the only way to solve problems when the cash spigot runs dry, and no ownership group spends more on its roster than John Henry and Co. Sadly, that's not sustainable.
That's not to say Dombrowski lacked strengths. He arrived in August of 2015 to do one job — spin one of the game's best farm systems into a champion. Predecessor Ben Cherington used to joke that he was leaving incredible talent for his successor, and he was right. Dombrowski knew what to do from there.
He spent money (David Price), traded prospects (Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale), and waited out the market (J.D. Martinez) to build a juggernaut. The 2018 Red Sox raced to 108 wins and the team's first championship since 2013, and they bore Dombrowski's stamp up and down the roster. A shrewd evaluator of big-league talent, he turned seemingly minor acquisitions like Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi into breakout postseason stars.
That doesn't mean the Red Sox were built to last. The starters broke down. The bullpen wilted without the security blanket of Kimbrel. Even the offense, so good the previous fall, found itself struggling to overcome the lack of superstar production from defending MVP Mookie Betts and Triple Crown candidate J.D. Martinez.
The 2019 Red Sox played consistently below the sum of their parts, and for that Dombrowski deserves his share of the blame, especially since he has left the franchise in a tenuous position. Megabucks contracts to David Price (8 years, $217 million), Chris Sale (5 years, $145 million), and Eovaldi (4 years, $68 million), could potentially hamstring the club in 2020. That's over $400 million committed to a trio of pitchers with serious injury concerns, which isn't the kind of detail a GM would necessarily highlight on his résumé.
The Red Sox must walk the high-wire where they augment their young contending core without sacrificing future pieces. That's not an easy needle to thread, which is why on Sunday night they made a change, just as they did four years ago when they replaced Cherington with Dombrowski.
Back then, Dombrowski was the right man for the job. He has since transformed prospects into talent, and it's hard to argue with the results. But it's also true that new challenges await, and with them comes the need for new leadership.
It is the way of the world in a brutal business. Surely the hyper-aggressive Dombrowski can appreciate that ownership decided not to mess around.
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