WASHINGTON — Welcome to Boston, Chaim Bloom, and congratulations on being named chief baseball officer of the Red Sox.
I’m writing this from the press box at Nationals Park before Game 4 of the World Series, which seems fitting because you’re about to take over a team where the only acceptable outcome to a season is playing on this stage.
It’s not fair and certainly not realistic, but that’s how it is. This is the golden age of Boston sports and every team is expected to be championship driven. Long-term plans are for other cities.
You’re here for a reason, and it’s because John Henry and Tom Werner thought Dave Dombrowski was leading them down the wrong path.
The Sox won the World Series with a bulldozer approach last season, outspending every team to build a near-perfect roster. Dombrowski lavished contracts on free agents and stripped away prospects to make big trades. His process, such as it was, produced 108 victories and a joyride through the playoffs.
The Red Sox have become the rich suburban parents of baseball. Sure, you can drive a Chevy to Market Basket and buy groceries to cook a perfectly good dinner. But it’s easier to take a Range Rover to Whole Foods and get something premade.
Your job is to add some ingenuity to the mix, to take the payroll from obscene to merely extravagant, and make the Red Sox a sustainable operation, not one with the dramatic peaks and valleys that have marked this decade. They Sox need to explore side roads from time to time, not the most direct (and expensive) ways to solve a problem.
As you contemplate what are now regrettable contracts for aging starters David Price and Chris Sale, the greatest concern is how the Sox discover and develop starting pitchers. It’s a problem because it so rarely happens.
The Sox have not drafted or signed an amateur pitcher who went on to a successful career in well more than a decade. You have to go back to Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Justin Masterson to find a homegrown starter worth boasting about.
The Sox are not alone in this quandary to be sure. But for a team with their resources, it’s an issue that stands out. There have been a series of failed first-round picks and only rarely has a starter from deeper in the draft emerged to help the major league team even just a little.
You inherit a talented and dedicated staff of scouts, coaches, and executives. But all aspects of how the Sox search for, coach, and care for pitchers should be examined. Turn that into a more fruitful process and everything else falls into place.
Another pressing issue is finding a way forward — or an acceptable ending — for the Mookie Betts issue. You’re being handed a ticking time bomb here.
Betts, as you know, is one of the two or three best players in the game. He does everything well and with a smile. The fans here love him and he’s a good teammate.
Betts will be a free agent after next season and isn’t much interested in giving the Sox a hometown discount. He wants what he’s worth.
Your job is to determine whether that’s possible with the Sox.
Betts does not trust easily. Theo Epstein was the GM who drafted him and he’s gone. Ben Cherington was the GM who developed him and he’s gone. Dombrowski was the GM when he became an All-Star and now he’s gone.
Chaim, you don’t want to be the one who let him get away. There has to be a way to get this done. Betts is on a path to become the best player in Sox history short of Ted Williams.
Senior vice president of operations Raquel Ferreira will be your biggest asset here. She knows Betts and his family on a level far beyond baseball.
If there’s not a deal to be made, the fans will understand if you lay out the reasons. But everything must be tried.
Another matter to clean up is the status of Dustin Pedroia. He’s under contract for two more seasons and there appears to be little chance he can play again. It’s time for closure for all involved.
It’s a bit strange the Sox have already made a bunch of decisions in the weeks leading up to your arrival. But there’s still plenty to be done and manager Alex Cora, for certain, will embrace the data-driven culture that worked so well for the Rays.
The Red Sox need to be refined, not rebuilt. The talent is in place to challenge for another championship next season and beyond. Your perspective and experience can make a good operation even better.