One way to view the trade deadline is to pinpoint it as the moment when Dave Dombrowski lost his clubhouse.
Another is to say he made the right call.
Of the many lessons to take away from the last week, the primary one might be this: the defending World Series champions did not deserve the help. They've spent most of the season on the outside of the playoff race, mired right in the middle of the American League.
Dombrowski deciding not to throw away future resources in the service of a lost cause will ultimately go down as the correct long-term move, even if it costs him the clubhouse and maybe even eventually his job.
But considering the lack of mental toughness the Red Sox have exhibited over seven straight losses, it's hard to blame Dombrowski for making a cold, dispassionate evaluation and deciding that nope, a couple of relievers won't make a difference.
The low point came on Saturday, when the Red Sox let their petty frustrations boil over in a doubleheader sweep against the Yankees. Game 1 featured ace Chris Sale and manager Alex Cora being ejected after screaming about Mike Estabrook's inconsistent strike zone, as if a couple of missed calls were the difference between Sale going seven effective innings and allowing the nine hits and eight runs that ended up torpedoing his outing.
For a manager and ace who preach accountability, it was a terrible look, made worse by their respective postgame comments. It's OK to be frustrated, but it's borderline disgraceful to put this on anyone other than the guy staring back in the mirror.
"We didn't agree with the strike zone, and I let him know," Cora told reporters.
"There's got to be something that can be done about this," Sale added.
But this just heightens a general feeling of discombobulation as the ship sinks. There's the Cora team meeting that wasn't, followed by the players-only team meeting that was, followed by yet another loss in Saturday's nightcap. There's Mookie Betts arguing strike calls, which he almost never does, and Xander Bogaerts throwing his bat repeatedly after missing pitches. There's starters who can't go four innings and hitters who transform from 19-run machines one week to meek three-hit lambs the next.
"We're searching," Cora said. "It's not like we're just OK, we're hoping for the best. On a daily basis we're looking for everything."
They now trail the Yankees by 13.5 games and the Rays by 5.5 games. They're four games behind Oakland for the second wild card. They haven't been this far out of first place since the final day of the 2015 season, when they finished 15 games out in last place. GM Ben Cherington didn't even survive August of that season, replaced by Dombrowski.
And this brings us back to Dombrowski's trade deadline approach. He admitted that if the team were closer to first place, he would've acted more aggressively. Now it's clear why. The Red Sox were already in the process of laying down when July 31 came and went without making a move.
Now that they're finishing the job, they're revealing their true character, at least for 2019. And the way they're going now, no closer, middle man, or combination of secondary pieces was going to be enough to save them.
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