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New year, same vibes

I’m not super excited about the coming season.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
Amazing that these were happier times.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it’s the latest foot of snow bearing down on me, but I’m not in the cheeriest of moods these days. The Red Sox aren’t making things any better. They’re also not making things worse, to be fair. They’re just sort of... there.

This is not ideal. Nor is it temporary, if the team’s 80-82 projected record (per Baseball Prospectus) means anything. Chaim Bloom might be making great moves on the margins, like his deal to acquire Ronaldo Hernández from the Rays for not much whatsoever, but the core remains dim enough to light the way to a third-place finish, in seemingly the best-case scenario.

It’s been a full year since the Mookie Betts trade, and this is where we are. Suddenly the team control the Sox gained over Alex Verdugo in said deal looks less like a steal if we are to consider both last year and this year as washes. The churn is the important part for the front office, so they’d still likely consider this a positive—and from their perspective I guess I see it—but being sprayed in the face in the dust kicked up by the churn isn’t what I’d call a pleasant fan experience.

No matter what Sam Kennedy tells you, it’s fair to use Bloom’s Rays tenure, and the teams he worked alongside the rest of that front office to produce, as a measuring stick for what he’s doing here. And to be completely fair: From this perspective, he’s doing well. The Hernández trade is an example of what Bloom does best: pay two cents for a 20-cent player, and repeat as necessary until your team scrapes into the playoffs.

I just can’t get excited about this process, even if the outcome will be interesting. On a basic level, swapping a dozen players in and out per year is interesting just to see how new guys look and play in the Boston uniform. I, personally, am ready for the Franchy Cordero experience, as I find him endlessly theoretically charming. The real games, with their strikeouts that very much count, might be less charming, but it’ll be neat in the short term.

My problem is that the short term in baseball only matters in April and October, and minus another expansion of the playoffs it’s hard to see these Sox playing in October. It’s far easier to see them plodding through another largely joyless, mostly fanless season, selling their remaining close-to-free-agency players at the deadline for another collection of dollar scratch tickets. It’s inevitable enough that I don’t care if they start now. If another team wants Chris Sale, from my perspective, they can have him.

This is not a universal sentiment. Not every Sox fan is as dour and realistic as this old bum, and not even every old bum is as attached to the “compete or bust” plan as I am. There are some fans for whom watching the Sox is the purest form of pastime, win or lose. I am not one of them. I don’t think this team is making a good faith effort to actually compete this year, and for the inevitable pushback Kennedy has typically given to this answer, that the team is absolutely ready to compete, just remember they said this last year, which they insisted wasn’t a bridge year right up until it wasn’t possible anymore.

This is another bridge year. It’s the far side of the bridge, so at least we’re rolling downhill now, but we’re still over the water. The question is not whether the Sox are on the bridge but where the bridge ends. Is it a place we all want to go? The team thinks so. I’m much less sure. I think real happiness and success is much further down the road, and I fear I’m already running out of gas.