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Of Course This Is A 5-Year Rebuild

2021 was a happy outlier that muddles an otherwise obvious plan.

2023 Red Sox Winter Weekend
The three horsemen of the 5-year rebuild.
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

On Friday, when John Henry, Chaim Bloom, Alex Cora and Sam Kennedy faced the music at Winter Weekend, they were heckled and booed by angry, cash-paying fans. The team’s brass finally, belatedly reaped the mistrust that it’s sown for years.

With the exception of Cora, who was plainly the odd man out, the guys on stage reliably want to have it both ways: they want to be prudent in the long run and ambitious in the short term. “We could keep going, we could drive right off that cliff, you guys have seen big-market teams do it before and end up rebuilding for half a decade,” Bloom told the angry crowd. “That’s not acceptable. That’s not acceptable to you guys; that can’t happen in Boston.”

This seems like a straightforward admission that it is, in fact, happening in Boston, but that he won’t admit it. Bloom later said he knew how it felt to be booed, having grown up in Philly, which is a great line until you realize that by the same token he knows how to start shit for no reason — and repeatedly using the words “bets” to describe his post-Mookie trade moves in front of a seething crowd certainly qualifies — and has leaned into the chaotic side more often than one might expect.

So what’s with the attitude? It’s likely because 2021 was the 95th percentile outcome of this five-year approach, and this outlier success story has emboldened them (Kennedy most notably) to lean heavily upon it in defending themselves. I say “defending” not to say we’re attacking as much as because they seem extremely defensive about explaining what is plainly happening.

This is all very “Glass Onion” — the motivations and machinations here are ultimately so obvious and transparent that to read complexity into it is just dumb. I refuse to believe that, in 2020, if the Red Sox thought they could be two games from the World Series in 2021, they would’ve have traded one of the 10 players who could make up that deficit. They weren’t expecting to compete, but the subsequent blurred lines between fact and fiction borne of overperformance made a hash of it all.

To be fair, I think the haters (myself included) understand how it happened, on a logistical level. After nearly 20 years, Henry needed a break. He wanted to tend to his Pool Boys and Penguins, and his answers on Friday suggest his vacation from the Sox has been fairly robust. Which I get. Sometimes you need a moment alone.

But there are consequences. When Jared Carrabis, a moderator, asked Henry if the Red Sox were “a priority” in Fenway Sports Group, it was 1) a clear, direct and great question and 2) got a muddled, evasive and noncommittal answer from Kennedy, as Henry, doubtless thinking over the European soccer transfer market, kept his mouth shut.

But whatever. Welcome to year four. The good news is that, broadly speaking, the hard part is over. The upswing starts now. The bad news is that there’s a dead cat to clean up and three people with knives out who claim they saw nothing. The bounce is real. So is the mess.