The Red Sox introduced the newly rich Rafael Devers at Fenway Park on Wednesday and tried their damnedest to sell it as a celebration.
Every intern in the building paraded up to the State Steet Pavilion intent on winning the award for biggest smile. Eternally upbeat CEO Sam Kennedy played the role of enthusiastic hype man on this "great" and "historic" day. Video screens featured Devers' photo and the names of every coach, scout, and trainer who helped develop him.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom implored fans to stick with the team and presented Devers as proof that a turnaround loomed. "I want to be clear that we're going to do this and it's going to be awesome," he gushed.
Tomase: Story injury the latest blow in Red Sox offseason gone wrong
Try as they might, the entire affair felt like the first Christmas without Sparky. We want to be merry, but his bowl is empty and our hearts just aren't in it
Celebrating anything Red Sox-related at the moment is a challenge. Not even a day before introducing Devers, Bloom revealed that presumed starting shortstop Trevor Story would miss some or all of the upcoming season after undergoing not-quite Tommy John surgery. His loss came on the heels of watching franchise icon Xander Bogaerts depart in free agency with no replacement in sight.
Coming off a last-place finish, the Red Sox will probably be worse in 2023, and the fans know it, which is why principal owner John Henry found himself on the receiving end of boos during the NHL Winter Classic.
So in that context, Devers's 10-year, $331 million extension felt like not nearly enough. If the morning was notable for anything, it wasn't Devers revealing the thought process behind signing (hint: $331 million), but the presence of owner Tom Werner on the dais, looking a tad rumpled and glum.
Besides the effervescent Kennedy, we haven't heard from ownership in ages. Henry was noticeably absent because of a scheduling conflict, conveniently extending his streak without a press conference to nearly three years, which left Werner to answer the questions we've wanted to ask someone in power for months.
Why does the team look worse now than three years ago? Is Chaim Bloom the right man to run baseball operations? Why'd you let Bogaerts leave? But most important of all -- what is the plan?
When Bloom arrived in 2019 and traded former MVP Mookie Betts, some of us recognized the need to reset the payroll and begin a rebuild. Bloom successfully shed dead money and in 2021 even pieced together a pretty good team that fell only two games shy of the World Series, as multiple members of the organization mentioned on Wednesday.
Then came 2022 and everything that could go wrong did, including the offseason. The Red Sox lost Bogaerts, whiffed on a number of free agent targets, and feel more likely to be hopelessly out of it by May 15 than in contention on Sept. 30.
Now it looks like they're beginning an even more dire rebuild than the one that opened Bloom's honeymoon period, and that's terrifying when you play in baseball's best division.
"It's not a rebuild!" Werner countered. "We have a core of good players and we've added to it, but it's definitely not a rebuild."
OK, then so what is it? What is the plan?
"I believe that Chaim has a clear plan to make us not only competitive and to win another World Series, I have a lot of confidence in our minor league system and we will be seeing some of the results of that this year and next year," Werner said.
"And we know we are in a competitive business. We are in the toughest competitive division. We'll be back this year, and I think the margin between winning and losing is pretty thin in our division, but I've got a lot of confidence in our roster and also know that Chaim intends to improve it. The results will be what they are, but it's not what you see on paper in January. It's where you end up in October."
There's a lot to unpack there, but it certainly sounds like the "plan" can be summed up thusly: maybe someday the minor leaguers will be good?
That's no way to win in 2023, and there's no guarantee it will mean anything in 2025 or 2028, either. But that's where we are.
So forgive me if I didn't feel like firing a confetti cannon on Wednesday. Extending Devers means they at least have something to show for the core of the 2018 champions, but they feel further than ever from those great heights.