Making their first comments since the firing of Dave Dombrowski earlier this month, Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner met with reporters Friday and sketched out their reasons for making a change at the top, along with their thoughts on a number of other issues facing the franchise in the near future.
Here's a list of what was said ... and what it might mean in practical terms:
1. On firing Dombrowski
NEWS: While continuing to be somewhat vague about the reason behind the dismissal and being careful not to bad-mouth Dombrowski, Henry and Werner suggested that the move didn't reflect any dissatisfaction with the job Dombrowski did, but rather, concern that he wasn't the right fit for what lies ahead for the Sox.
"We're enormously grateful for everything that Dave did to bring us the three division championships and the World Series,'' said Werner. "He was the right leader for Baseball Operations then, but moving forward, we just thought that in order for us to be successful in the next five years, we needed to improve in a number of different areas. As I said, he was the right man for the time, but moving forward, we're going in a different direction.''
Said Henry: "We were unanimous that we're not in the same situation we were four years ago. Things have changed quite a bit with the team and the direction where we're headed. We just made a decision that we weren't going to continue with that direction.''
Werner noted that the Sox aim to be "competitive in all facets'' with "some of the other teams around the league.''
ANALYSIS: This is far from surprising. It is indeed difficult to criticize what Dombrowski accomplished. And as Henry and Werner noted, even the disappointment of 2019 wasn't a big factor. But it's clear that the Sox aren't interested in spending at the very top of the payroll scale year after year and want more out of their minor league system. Dombrowski's MO, meanwhile, was to sacrifice prospects for established stars, a strategy that can only work for so long.
Werner was clearly referencing a more fertile farm system, the likes of which the league's two best teams -- the Yankees and Astros -- have done while also continuing to field championship-caliber teams at the big league level.
2. Timetable for a new hire.
NEWS: For now, the team is being run by a quartet of people from Baseball Operations -- Eddie Romero, Brian O'Halloran, Zack Scott and Raquel Ferreira -- while the search for a new GM gets underway.
"We really don't have a timetable,'' said Werner. "We're very comfortable with the progress that we've made and we're very comfortable with the leadership qualities of each of those four people.''
ANALYSIS: The owners were asked if they intended to have someone on the job in time for the GM Meetings in mid-November and responded that while that would be a preference, it's hardly a hard-and-fast deadline.
3. Ownership dismissed the notion that the organization is unstable.
NEWS: "I look at it as we've had three general managers since 2003,'' said Werner. "So I don't look it like that. We all know that Boston is an incredibly great sports town. It's also very demanding and we want to be excellent year in and year out. But I consider this to be one of the most coveted in all of sports."
"We don't look to make changes willy-nilly,'' added Henry.
ANALYSIS: The Red Sox can spin this any way they wish, but the fact that they've either pushed aside or fired recent executives less than two years after winning titles has not gone unnoticed within the industry. It could deter some executives from showing interest in the opening and the Sox will have to convince interested applicants that the job will have some security.
4. The payroll is about to be cut.
NEWS: Last year, the Red Sox exceeded the third and final threshold of the competitive balance tax (CBT), with a payroll of more than $245 million. This season, the Sox went over the second threshold at about $240 million.
(In 2020), we need to be under the CBT,'' said Henry, meaning below $208 million. "This is something we've known for more than a year.''
Later, both Henry and Werner amended that to say that was merely a "goal,'' and that sometimes, events intercede.
Still, it's evident the Sox don't wish to continue to pay the taxes on the overages or suffer the drop-back of draft pick spots that comes as another penalty.
ANALYSIS: This means the Sox are either going to have to unload either some veteran players or opt not to spend much money this winter.
The Red Sox will lose some free agents like Mitch Moreland and Rick Porcello and will likely non-tender the likes of Steven Wright and Sandy Leon.
But they're already committed to more than $150 million in existing contracts -- and that doesn't count big arbitration raises for the likes of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and some relievers.
As such, the Sox may have to explore the possibility of dealing someone like David Price or Nathan Eovaldi -- while agreeing to take back a sizeable chunk of the remaining obligations in place.
5. The Red Sox are still interested in resigning Mookie Betts
NEWS: "We've stated publicly that we hope he will stay with us for the rest of his career,'' said Werner. "We've made proposals to him in the past and he did want to test free agency, which is his right and we'll have conversations with him going forward. Hopefully, there will be a point where we can make a deal or we'll decide at that point what is Plan B or Plan C. We haven't gotten to that point and we're very open to continuing the discussions with him.''
ANALYSIS: It's difficult to square the Red Sox' intentions to reduce payroll and also retain Betts on a deal that, by definition, will pay him in excess of $30 million annually. But as the owners noted, getting under the CBT is a "goal'' and not a mandate, an event as big as keeping one of the game's best players might qualify as a move that would be worth making an exception for.
6. The next GM will likely come from outside the organization.
NEWS: Henry was most direct on this matter, pointing out that this offseason will present a number of challenges.
"This is a tough job and this is a tough offseason too,'' said Henry. "This is a challenging offseason. To put (the in-house candidates) in charge is sort of a tough way to start your career as a general manager. So we are starting the search looking outwardly (at experienced general manages).''
ANALYSIS: As we've been reporting for weeks, the Red Sox intend to reach out to some of the more successful and experienced executives in the game, a group that includes Houston's Jeff Luhnow, LA's Andrew Friedman and the Cubs' Theo Epstein. If they strike out there, they have a list of others with somewhat smaller profiles. In that sense, nothing's changed, though Henry did say the club has yet to ask permission to speak to any outside candidates.