News of Chaim Bloom’s firing as Red Sox chief baseball officer arrived as a shock across the organization. No one anticipated a senior leadership shakeup in during the season, let alone just over an hour before the first pitch of a game.
Still, the decision to dismiss Bloom with one season remaining on his five-year contract did not come as a surprise. The business of baseball teams — and particularly, a Red Sox franchise that has won four World Series in the 21st century — is to win.
And in nearly four years with Bloom atop the baseball operations department, the Sox hadn’t done enough to fulfill that responsibility. Since 2020, the Sox entered Thursday with a 267-262 record, a .505 winning percentage that ranked 15th among 30 teams. They finished last in 2020 (a COVID-compressed, 60-game campaign) and 2022, and entered Thursday tied for last in the American League East with the Yankees.
The Red Sox enjoyed a joyride in 2021, qualifying for the playoffs on the last day of the season and coming within two wins of a World Series berth. But the performances in 2022 and ‘23, when the Sox spent part of the season on the fringes of the wild-card race but faded far from contention, led them to seek a new leader.
Principal Red Sox owner John Henry, (who also owns the Boston Globe), chairman Tom Werner, and president/CEO Sam Kennedy informed Bloom of their decision Thursday morning. The team also offered GM Brian O’Halloran a different senior leadership position in the front office.
“We’re aiming for World Series championships. That’s it. That’s the aim. That’s the goal. That’s why we’re here,” said Kennedy. “Our fans deserve World Series championships, as many as we can possibly win.
“This has been a new era of winning these past two decades. And that’s why we’re here. We’ve fallen short the last two years. We recognize that. But the goal, the commitment has never wavered once. We’re here to win.”
Of course, while the Red Sox have always eyed winning as their defining pursuit, Bloom was hired in October 2019 at a time when the franchise recognized it would have to endure a period of pain. Bloom’s predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, led the team to three straight first-place finishes in the AL East and a championship in 2018, but the Sox fell back to third place in 2019, missing the postseason despite carrying the highest payroll in baseball.
The Red Sox farm system had been depleted, with no impactful major leaguers on the immediate horizon. The team was concerned that Dombrowski’s focus skewed too heavily on moves in pursuit of short-team gain and in spite of long-term consequences, fearing it could be trapped for years with a roster that was old, expensive, and disappointing.
In Bloom, the Red Sox sought a leader to help rebuild the farm system and player development infrastructure, and who also possessed the creativity to build a winning major league roster while pursuing those long-term goals.
Bloom’s first major task was an unsavory one: Trading Mookie Betts (along with pitcher David Price) to the Dodgers in an effort to reset the team’s payroll and add young talent (outfielder Alex Verdugo, catcher Connor Wong, and eventual prospect bust Jeter Downs). That deal, along with the shocking suspension and departure of manager Alex Cora because of a sign-stealing scandal at his former club in Houston, derailed the 2020 campaign before it started.
The 2021 season, however, seemed to signal a new direction. A number of players acquired in the offseason emerged as key contributors as the Red Sox made a run deep into October. The farm system had improved, and the Sox thought a window could be opening.
Instead, the last-place finish in 2022 and the possibility of another one in 2023 convinced owners to change course. Despite an impressive group of young players in the big leagues (Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, and Jarren Duran) as well as an improving farm system with potentially elite talents (shortstop Marcelo Mayer and outfielder Roman Anthony), the Red Sox are seeking a leader to make bold moves to jump-start contention. Bloom’s methodical approach became an imperfect fit.
So, what now?
The baseball operations department will be overseen by O’Halloran and assistant GMs Eddie Romero, Raquel Ferreira, and Michael Groopman. Kennedy said the team will commence an immediate search for Bloom’s replacement.
But in contrast to the prior three changes that occurred atop the baseball operations department — when Theo Epstein left for the Cubs after 2011 and was replaced by internal hire Ben Cherington; when Cherington was pushed aside for Dombrowski; and when Dombrowski was fired and replaced by Bloom — the Red Sox anticipate a search process that will include more than one candidate.
Kennedy also said the Red Sox will not rush to replace Bloom at the expense of finding the right fit. He described the team as open-minded on questions of backgrounds, prior experience running a baseball operations department, and whether the hire will be internal or external.
One name that can be ruled out: Epstein, whom Kennedy said would not be a consideration to replace Bloom or O’Halloran.
Do the Sox expect Cora to return as manager in 2024, the final year of his contract?
“I do. Yeah, I do,” said Kennedy.
Cora, who has expressed interest in a move into the front office, was more circumspect.
“I’ll finish the season and spend some time here and then I’ll go home and get ready for next year,” Cora said, while not directly responding when asked if he’d be interested in a front office position.
Whoever takes over for Bloom will arrive with an obvious sense of urgency to return to the postseason — something that could be extremely alluring, particularly given the Red Sox’ considerable resources, and daunting given that Bloom is the third straight head of baseball operations to be fired in the middle of his fourth year in the job.
“We have a vision and the vision is to win a World Series,” said Cora. “Right now, obviously we’re far away from it this season. But we’ll see how the [hiring] process goes and what happens in the upcoming months. And I do believe with the players that we have and whatever we do in the offseason, we’re going to have a chance to improve next year, and hopefully we can play baseball in October.”