The news conference had been over for just a few minutes when workers swiftly started to clear away the tables and chairs. It has become a well-practiced routine for the Red Sox.
Players, managers, and even general managers have come and gone at a nonstop pace the last five years. But this time, the change was more than a different face in front of the cameras.
In naming Dave Dombrowski to fill the new position of president of baseball operations, the Red Sox have hired an outsider with a long history of bold moves and strong opinions.
Dombrowski regards minor league prospects as trade chips to acquire star players. He believes in statistical analytics, but not at the expense of traditional evaluation methods. He plans months ahead, not years.
With the financial resources of the Red Sox, Dombrowski could quickly turn the franchise back into a contender.
“One thing that’s fantastic about here, you have the ability to do a lot of things on the baseball operations. You have the luxury of continuing to work young guys in all the time but still pursue veteran talent,” Dombrowski said on Wednesday. “That’s a very enviable position for someone in my spot.”
Reading from a prepared statement, principal owner John Henry called it a great day for the future of the team.
“As owners, we’re all responsible for the poor results we’ve had, and for results going forward,” said Henry, who also owns the Globe. “Dave Dombrowski is an architect of team-building the right way.”
Dombrowski was the general manager of the Florida Marlins in 1998 when Henry purchased that franchise. Henry became owner of the Red Sox before the 2002 season but he and Dombrowski have stayed in touch since.
The 59-year-old Dombrowski has 37 years in baseball, the last 14 with the Detroit Tigers. He started with the White Sox in 1978 and eventually became the general manager of the Expos, Marlins, and Tigers.
For the Red Sox, it’s a new way of doing business. Dombrowski is the first president of baseball operations in team history. He will report directly to ownership and within a few weeks will hire a general manager as his chief assistant.
“I’m not here to blow up the organization,” Dombrowski said. “They have a lot of good people here.”
There is much to be done. This season almost certainly will be the fifth time in the last six seasons the Red Sox will miss the playoffs and the third time in four years they will finish in last place.
Dombrowski will have to rebuild a tattered pitching staff, reconfigure a disappointing lineup, and decide whether to bring back manager John Farrell for a fourth season.
Farrell is away from the team for the rest of the season undergoing treatment for Stage 1 lymphoma. He and Dombrowski spoke over the telephone on Tuesday and could meet in person by the end of the week.
“I don’t know John real well, we’ve crossed paths, we know each other a little bit, but I wouldn’t say we know each real well,” Dombrowski said. “I told him, ‘First and foremost you need to take care of your health. And that’s the most important thing.’ ”
Dombrowski’s wife, former ESPN broadcaster Karie Ross, was at the news conference along with their two children, 17-year-old Darbi and 15-year-old Landon.
“It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to being part of this community,” Dombrowski said.
That Dombrowski is now in charge of the Red Sox with 42 games (after Wednesday) left to play this season is a surprise. On June 2, Henry said Ben Cherington would be the general manager “for a very long time.”
That proved to be only 10 weeks. What changed?
“Dave became a free agent,” Henry said.
The Red Sox changed course when the Tigers fired Dombrowski on Aug. 4. Henry reached out to Dombrowski and the sides agreed to meet in Chicago on Aug. 13 at baseball’s quarterly owners’ meetings.
Henry, team chairman Tom Werner, and Fenway Sports Group president Michael Gordon spent close to four hours with Dombrowski at a suite in the Four Seasons Hotel. Dombrowski agreed to a long-term contract over the weekend.
Toronto and Washington also had interest in Dombrowski, the Blue Jays offering a CEO-level position. Dombrowski used that leverage to secure full control of baseball operations from the Red Sox.
“We needed to move quickly,” Werner said. “There was a lot of interest in Dave.”
According to Henry, he spoke with Werner and Cherington about the idea of reaching out to Dombrowski on Aug. 4.
“Tom and I wanted to see if there was a fit for Dave within the Red Sox organization. Ben did not object,” Henry said.
During his own news conference later in the day, Cherington offered a different version of the events. He said he was not told of the team’s interest in hiring Dombrowski until Saturday afternoon as the Sox were playing the Seattle Mariners.
“I was in my office. [Henry] came and let me know he and Tom were pursuing Dave for this role,” Cherington said. “That was the first I heard of it.”
Cherington was offered the opportunity to stay on as general manager with the understanding Dombrowski would make any important decision.
By Tuesday, when the Red Sox had a deal in place with Dombrowski, Cherington had decided to step down.
“I felt strongly that what was best for Dave, what was best for me, what was best for the Red Sox was the same thing. And that was a clean break,” Cherington said.
The Red Sox were 290-315 under Cherington, winning the World Series in 2013 but otherwise underachieving. The team finished last in 2012 and ’14 and is headed there again this season.
Cherington was the public face of poor decisions often made by his superiors, including the decision not to make Jon Lester a reasonable contract offer.
“The GM of the Red Sox maybe isn’t ever fully responsible but certainly is fully accountable,” Cherington said. “That’s how I feel. I was prepared for that possibility.”
Cherington said several teams already have contacted him but he will take some time before deciding on his next move. He has worked for the Red Sox for 19 seasons, noting that most of his adult life has been spent at Fenway Park.
“I love the game. I’m 41, I’m going to work,” he said. “We’ll see what comes.”
As Cherington spoke, assistant GMs Mike Hazen and Brian O’Halloran were in the back of the room watching along with pro scouting director Jared Porter and other baseball operations staffers. When Cherington finished, the group walked out together.
Dombrowski was on the field watching batting practice, shaking hands with well-wishers, and having a conversation with second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
“One thing about this team, things change,” designated hitter David Ortiz said. “Nobody wants to stay in last place.”