Welcome back to the big leagues, Boston.
Agreeing to terms with Rafael Devers on an 11-year, $331 million contract on Wednesday didn’t reverse the series of embarrassments the Red Sox have suffered in recent years when dealing with star players.
But it did signal, with full intensity, that John Henry will not sit on the sidelines as the Mets, Dodgers, Padres, Phillies, Yankees, and other teams aggressively pursue the best talent in the game.
This was a statement. It’s the richest contract in team history, soaring far beyond the $217 million deal David Price agreed to before the 2016 season.
It’s also the longest contract the Red Sox have ever given out, surpassing the eight years Manny Ramirez received as a free agent in 2001.
Only five other contracts in major league history are worth more guaranteed money.
That Devers merited the investment wasn’t a question. The 26-year-old third baseman has hit .292 with an .884 OPS the last four seasons and was twice named an All-Star.
A gifted hitter with power to all fields, Devers improved his defensive play enough last season to give the Sox faith that he can remain at third base until the later stages of the contract.
The Sox also are confident in the person. Encouraged by manager Alex Cora, Devers showed leadership qualities last season and embraced the idea that he was one of the best players in baseball.
“I know what I’m worth,” Devers said at the start of last season after rejecting an extension offer from the Sox. “I know what I can do.”
As the Red Sox evolve, Devers will be their centerpiece as players like Brayan Bello, Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, and Garrett Whitlock emerge around him.
It also may have been a career-saving move for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, whose three years in charge have been uneven at best.
It was shameful the Sox gave up on signing Mookie Betts in 2020 and traded him to the Dodgers for what has proven to be a poor return for a player of his talents.
Then came the disaster last month when Xander Bogaerts felt he had no choice but to take an 11-year, $280 million deal from the Padres because the final offer from the Sox was woefully short.
Bogaerts was vocal in his desire to finish his career with the Sox but the team badly mismanaged contract talks going back to spring training last year. Once he hit the open market, other teams were quick to show Bogaerts how much they valued his skills and leadership.
As the Yankees formed a long-term partnership with Aaron Judge that included naming him captain, the Red Sox essentially ran their de facto captain out of town despite empty promises of how much they wanted to keep him.
The backlash since, which included Henry being booed at Fenway Park when he attended the Winter Classic on Monday, provided ample motivation for the Sox to finally lock down one of their homegrown stars.
The alternative — allowing Devers to arrive at spring training with one year left on his contract — would have invited further calamity.
That the Sox finally broke a destructive pattern and locked down a star player creates hope within the organization and among a fan base that had grown tired of hearing the club had shown interest in a player but were outbid.
Bloom showed he could close a big deal and was capable of more as an executive than signing second-level players to short-term contracts while preaching about sustainability. He needed this, given ownership’s impatience with its top baseball executives over the last decade.
In the context of what has been an offseason defined by wild spending, the Devers deal is actually a sensible contract. Devers will be 36 in the final year and doesn’t have any opt-out rights. The Padres will be paying Bogaerts until he’s 41.
Devers was under contract for 2023 already, so the extension doesn’t change the quality of the roster with spring training approaching.
The Sox need upgrades to their lineup and rotation. But extending Devers proves there’s an appetite for further improvement. Or at least there should be.
Even Bogaerts was rooting for this day.
“They have the money to pay the kid. That kid deserves it,” he said last month in San Diego after his first press conference with the Padres. “Not saying that as a friend of his, but because of the talent he has on the field. He’s special.”
The Sox recognized that, too.