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The Red Sox are in Dave Dombrowski's hands, not John Henry's

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John Henry might have opinions and preferences, but he hired Dave Dombrowski to lead the Red Sox back to the top, not to follow directions from up on high.

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Courtesy Nick Cafardo, here is a sentiment few fanbases ever want to hear:

The preference of Red Sox owners would be for president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to find an ace via the trade route — an under-30 ace, to satisfy the preferred criteria of the organization.

Not the bit about trading for an ace, mind. For what (little) it's worth, that's actually my preference as well. The Red Sox have an overabundance of bodies throughout the minor leagues, and in the majors besides. For all that their pockets are deep, on the other hand, with Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello, etc. all on the payroll, they do not have quite so much room in the budget.

No, the bit fans don't want to hear is this: ownership has a preference.

Sure, Larry Lucchino has retired, but that doesn't mean Fenway Sports Group can't still stick their nose in where it's technically allowed, but probably not a great place to be. They cut the checks, and so long as they do, they can issue mandates. They shouldn't--we've seen enough examples of mismanagement from owners who don't know what they're doing overruling the guys they hired specifically to be experts. But given how the hierarchy works, there's nobody who can actually stop them.

Cafardo isn't the only one suggesting that ownership will be making the call, either. Here's Scott Lauber on the subject:

Wait, what? Oh, yeah, Dombrowski also must convince principal owner John Henry, the man who holds the checkbook, to sign off on that plan. And Henry believes strongly that long-term, nine-figure contracts for pitchers in their 30s are almost always a rotten idea, with statistical and anecdotal evidence (see: Mike Hampton, Barry Zito, CC Sabathia) to support his aversion.

So, as the offseason gets underway, it turns out the biggest question facing the Red Sox isn't which ace to pursue but rather whether their owner will authorize Dombrowski to do it via free agency or leave him to instead make a trade.

Good news: there's almost no chance this is what's going to be happening in Fenway Park.

I'm not saying Cafardo or Lauber have it wrong, exactly. It's possible they're just stating what they believe to be the case. Or maybe John Henry walked past Cafardo in the hallway and said "hey, Nick, I thought you should know I'd prefer we trade for an ace rather than sign one in free agency." Either way, it doesn't particularly matter, because the Red Sox owners having a preference is a long ways from them acting on it in the way Lauber suggests.

Consider the case of one Carl Crawford. Theo Epstein wanted him, John Henry didn't. Theo Epstein called him up and asked for the money to sign him, and John Henry gave him the go-ahead, because baseball operations had come to the investor and told him what they thought the best baseball decision was. Much like he wouldn't tell a restaurant he had invested in what to cook or how. Or maybe he would. I make no claims about Henry's gastronomical expertise.

When it comes to baseball, though, Henry knows he isn't an expert, but the guy who hires them. And in fact, the guy he hired a few months back should give you an idea of exactly how little he intends to meddle. If John Henry had, after so many years, finally decided enough was enough, and it was time to roll up his sleeves and take charge, who would he hire? The established veteran executive in Dave Dombrowski who's used to getting his own way, or Joe from accounting who would be happy to collect a much bigger paycheck to mindlessly follow orders?

The Red Sox have not been flawless over the past 15 years. Yes, there have been times where it looked like Larry Lucchino was pulling a few too many strings. But by-and-large their problems have been the result of baseball operations making mistakes. That will happen, but not nearly so often as ownership will screw things up if they try to interfere. It doesn't take many logical leaps to come to the conclusion that baseball experts are better at making baseball decisions.

Will John Henry have to sign off on Dombrowski's move? Sure, but only insofar as he signed off on the Carl Crawford move. He'll get a call from Dombrowski, who will tell him he's got Ace X for $Y million over Z years, and so long as that's within the budget Henry set--the one place it really is reasonable for an owner to make the call--then Dombrowski will very likely get the go-ahead.

Good ownership is the foundation of most good teams. Bad ownership can poison the best of front offices, and proves awfully difficult to overcome, leaving some franchises in the basement for years and years with little hope of escape. The Red Sox have good owners, and after so many years of letting baseball operations run the show, it's time we start giving them the benefit of the doubt.