CLEVELAND — The assumption all along was that manager John Farrell would return to the Red Sox next season once his treatment for lymphoma was complete.
But there was a degree of uncertainty that only grew over time.
For weeks, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was careful to only say that Farrell should focus on his health. The Red Sox also played well for interim manager Torey Lovullo, at one point moving into third place.
Dombrowski dodged a potentially thorny problem Sunday, announcing that Farrell would return to his post with Lovullo staying by his side as bench coach.
Further, Lovullo agreed to waive the right to pursue any managerial positions for 2016 in exchange for a two-year contract.
“Hopefully John’s back, he’s feeling great; he’s ready to go,” Dombrowski said. “If for some reason he’s a little slower to come back or not 100 percent, his trusted right-hand lieutenant is there to help him at that point.”
Lovullo, who managed the team to a 28-20 record, operated the entire time believing Farrell would return.
“This is John’s team; it’s his job,” he said.
But the decision to stay with the Sox and forfeit a chance to manage another team was difficult. Lovullo has been pursuing such opportunities for several years.
“It just felt right to be here. It just felt right to stay here. It just felt right to see this through,” he said before the Sox ended the season with a 3-1 loss against the Cleveland Indians. “I have a love for the organization; I have a love for John. I have a love for the players. If something were to happen, my time is coming if it’s meant to be.”
Lovullo, 50, ultimately was willing to trade his career hopes in return for seeing it through with the Red Sox and being there to assist Farrell when he returns.
Lovullo had a year remaining on his contract. Dombrowski said he tore that up and gave Lovullo a new deal, which matches the length of Farrell’s.
“Thought long and hard about it,” Dombrowski said. “Been very impressed, of course, with Torey. Torey’s done a great job for us . . . So I had a thought that perhaps this would be a way that it would work to protect ourselves.”
Terms were not disclosed, but Dombrowski said Lovullo would be paid in the upper echelon of bench coaches.
Beyond the financial terms, Lovullo spoke with Dombrowski several times to discuss his standing in the organization’s eyes and what the future could hold for him.
“It wasn’t a negotiation. It was more along the lines of researching and getting information from Dave,” Lovullo said. “I asked some things I wanted to find out about . . . His honesty and his openness is the reason why I’m here.”
Lovullo consulted with Farrell, too, making sure he was comfortable with having a bench coach with a higher profile than the one he left in charge in August.
“I said, ‘I love you. I’m loyal, and that will not be an issue,’ ” Lovullo said.
For the players, the decision on Farrell was what they expected but the news was welcomed.
“I thought he was our manager before. I didn’t know what changed,” Dustin Pedroia said. “It will be good to have him back.”
Said Clay Buchholz: “If he is healthy, it was his job. That was always the understanding.”
Knowing that Lovullo will return, that was the bonus.
“Comforting,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “Torey has been part of the staff and I’m glad he’s staying. I think he could be a great manager.”
Dombrowski made his offer to Lovullo on Sept. 22. Lovullo informed Dombrowski of his decision Thursday and Dombrowski called Farrell on Saturday.
That was the first time Dombrowski told Farrell he would be returning for sure.
“I never really gave him that 100 percent. I had always given the indication but I needed to be in a position to basically close that loop,” Dombrowski said.
“The process of his health is still first and foremost,” added Dombrowski. “All indications are good. He will have some tests again in about three weeks to see where he stands at that point.”
Dombrowski admitted he does not know Farrell as well as he would like and would have preferred the opportunity to evaluate his worthiness to continue as manager. The Red Sox were 50-64 when Farrell stepped down.
Third base coach Brian Butterfield, hitting coach Chili Davis, assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, and pitching coach Carl Willis were retained. Dana LeVangie, who moved into the role of interim bench coach in August, will return to bullpen coach.