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In Dave Dombrowski, Red Sox find a president free of attachments

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Oftentimes, the best person to fix a team's worst mistakes is anyone but the man who made them.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

There are two sides to the hiring of Dave Dombrowski.Obviously there is the addition of Dombrowski himself, and what he will bring to the team going forward. But there is also the departure of Ben Cherington, and what his absence will mean.

For many, this is a moment of catharsis. Thanks to the disastrous offseason gone by, the former general manager was not the most popular man in Boston. Banners fly forever, but the successes of years past are easy to overlook in the face of present day misery. For my money, Cherington was a creative mind who was sometimes too tricky for his own good. The Red Sox are worse off for not having his input, though they might be better off for having someone else in charge.

Also leaving with Cherington, though, are his attachments, and this is very much addition through subtraction.

Ben Cherington signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. He extended Rick Porcello. He traded for Joe Kelly, starting pitcher. His name is stamped on all of these deals, and so to some extent his reputation rested on them. Not a good look, no, but also something that could not simply be undone.

When talking about the Hanley Ramirez problem that looms so large over this Red Sox team, the question always seems to come down to where they're going to play him. The presumption, invariably, being that he must play. Ben Cherington gave him $88 million, and you don't pay someone $88 million and not use them.

Dave Dombrowski did not give Hanley Ramirez $88 million. He also didn't give Pablo Sandoval $95 million, or Rick Porcello $82.5 million. This does not free him from the financial burden, but it could open some doors for the Red Sox that would otherwise be closed simply because of appearances.

This is the sort of picture that can make a GM stubborn. -- Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper

The thing about these players is that there's a very real chance that the Red Sox are simply better off without them. I'm not saying that they'd be better off without their contracts--nobody needs to be told that. I'm saying they might be better off paying them their full salary not to play, and not to take up a roster spot. Hanley Ramirez is a barely average bat at this point, and even if you give him credit for that collision with the wall ruining the tear he was on in April, the fact remains that, with David Ortiz not likely headed for retirement in 2016, his only hope to actually be a productive baseball player is for a first base switch to work out. No, left field isn't happening. He's not getting better. He's not going to reach a passable level.

The same is true for Pablo Sandoval and Rick Porcello if they can't recover, though their age and recent history makes it much more likely that they can. But in all three cases, if Dave Dombrowski doesn't believe in it, he can actually cut the cord. That's not to say he's designating anyone for assignment, but he can find a taker. No, nobody is taking their full contracts. But there's some dollar amount where the Red Sox can get out of any of those deals.

It sounds awful, paying players significant amounts of money to go away and play for someone else. And in a vacuum it is. But if it's awful, it's a level of awful the Red Sox can actually very easily afford. The fact is that they have Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts making major contributions for league minimum. Blake Swihart is coming along nicely, and Eduardo Rodriguez is more or less a lock for the 2016 rotation. The Red Sox have some $112 million committed to payroll in 2016. There's a lot of holes to be filled, yes, but there's also a lot of money available to fill them. If the Red Sox got even $10 million back from Hanley's deal, that would give them that much more room to work with.

I'm not saying that this is the correct move. I very much don't think it is with Porcello and Sandoval, to be honest+. Sandoval is still relatively young, has looked better on both sides of the ball of late. Porcello is completely broken, but the way he's broken is so baffling that it's hard to imagine he can't also be fixed. And if Hanley Ramirez is a complete loss in left, the possibility exists that he's their best option at first base. It would be nice to have some idea of his ability to play the position before the time comes to make that decision, but it's not like they've got terrific alternatives. Travis Shaw is going nuts, yes, but he's not escaping the small sample size warning this season no matter how superlative he is in that sample.

What matters, and what could make this coming offseason even more interesting than most expect, is that all doors are open to Dombrowski. General managers (or, in this new day, presidents of baseball operations) get weighed down by history. Whether it's because they don't want to change the opinions that led them to make bad signings in the first place, or just don't want to make the public admission of guilt that the dreaded partial salary dump would be, there are avenues left unexplored, ones that fans write off as unrealistic not because they could not be done, but because they would not be.

Those avenues, though, are now free of Cherington's connections. It's just Dave Dombrowski and a broken team with at least one piece that really doesn't seem to fit. There's no telling how he'll choose to approach the problems facing the Red Sox. But it's nice to know that he will enter the offseason unfettered by the past.