Chaim Bloom inherited a mess, and cleaning it up won't happen overnight.
Some recognizable names will probably depart by the Aug. 31 trade deadline, and I suspect Red Sox fans will be generally OK with the TNT approach to rebuilding.
There's one player, however, who represents a bridge too far. If Bloom trades him, it will send exactly the wrong message to the clubhouse and fanbase, and that's shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal dropped an interesting nugget about a provision in Bogaerts' six-year, $120 million extension that grants full no-trade protection once he reaches seven years of service time, which will occur on Sept. 6.
That makes the coming trade deadline the last time the Red Sox can move Bogaerts without his permission. Complicating matters even further is an opt-out that Bogaerts can exercise after the 2022 season, meaning any Red Sox rebuild implicitly leaves its star shortstop on the clock. Will Bogaerts choose to stay in Boston if the Red Sox are miles from being competitive just as he turns 30?
"A team that acquires Bogaerts would have him for at least three pennant races," Rosenthal wrote. "The Red Sox are almost obligated to see what he might bring back."
In a vacuum, yes. But in reality, trading Bogaerts would not only be a rush job, it would be a sign of total surrender that effectively eliminates the possibility of the Red Sox remaining competitive while building towards a better future.
Bogaerts is signed to a team-friendly contract because he prioritized staying in Boston. Had he hit free agency last season at age 27 before the world went to hell, he likely would've scored a contract of over $200 million, since he was coming off a breakout .309-33-117 season that saw him named the starting shortstop on the inaugural all-MLB team en route to a fifth-place MVP finish.
If Bogaerts regretted his decision, it never showed. He was the rare star who got paid and then got better, and manager Ron Roenicke highlighted his relentlessly positive disposition when discussing clubhouse leadership after being hired in February.
Bogaerts represented the perfect player development success story. The Red Sox signed him as a teenager out of Aruba and then groomed him into a two-time World Series champion. With Bogaerts emerging as the face of the franchise, there was no place else he wanted to be.
That makes him the definition of a foundational player, and Bloom's rebuild needs to start with some structure and stability. That means keeping Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers, as well as left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and probably right fielder Alex Verdugo. Maybe they can make room for J.D. Martinez, too.
Unlike Tampa, where Bloom cut his teeth, or eventual champions such as the Royals and Astros, the Red Sox needn't bottom out with a series of high draft picks before they can compete. In any given year, their considerable resources allow them to contend for the postseason and even a championship without sacrificing Bloom's long-term vision. Ben Cherington unfurled that blueprint in 2013 and gave us the Boston Strong title.
You can't do it without a baseline of talent, however, and trading Bogaerts now at age 27 means you might as well trade everyone, because you're punting on far more than 2020.
Bogaerts isn't Mookie Betts, a looming free agent whose contract demands effectively priced him out of Boston's rebuild window. Paying Bogaerts $20 million annually leaves room to add pieces. Giving Betts double that amount alongside bad deals for starters Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale leaves the Red Sox squeezed.
Asked specifically about Bogaerts and Devers on Wednesday, as well as recent comments from CEO Sam Kennedy that no one is untouchable, Bloom parsed his words.
"To say that somebody is truly untouchable, you're probably lying to yourself and lying to a player if you say that," he said. "We're not doing our jobs if we're not willing to be open to opportunities."
There's listening and then there's rank opportunism, and trading Bogaerts a week before he earns a say in the matter feels rushed at best and doing him dirty at worst. Bloom may have inherited Bogaerts' contract, but he knows what it represents — a young superstar who took far less to ensure he could stay here.
Sending him away now sends an awful message. It tells Red Sox fans not to bother checking the standings until about 2025, because it will be a while before the team starts trying.