A team of athletes wearing Boston Red Sox uniforms marched into Fenway Park on Monday morning. They played and won one game, defeating a team owned by John Henry, who also owns the Red Sox.

vague? It was just another day in an awe-inspiring off-season for Major League Baseball’s most intriguing franchise, which again turned from frustration to excitement this week.

Monday’s game was the NHL’s Winter Classic, and the Boston Bruins defeated the Henry-owned Pittsburgh Penguins 2–1. Both teams wore baseball uniforms at the ballpark, and when Henry arrived, a fan on Van Ness Street along the stadium’s first base line saw him in the parking lot and shouted, “Pay Raffy!” Henry — whose ever-expanding playing portfolio seemed to dampen his enthusiasm for spending on the Red Sox — might have heard.

Boston’s star third baseman Raphael Devers was said on Wednesday to be in the process of finalizing an 11-year, $331 million contract extension with the Red Sox. The deal was first reported by former major leaguer Carlos Berga. on Instagram, The deal would provide a whiff of optimism amid a dismal winter for a team coming off a whirlwind decade: five playoff appearances, five seasons finishing at least 15 games out of first place in the American League East.

Devers, 26, is the last remaining player from Boston’s 2018 championship roster. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts left for the San Diego Padres in free agency last month, and other homegrown starters, such as 2018 AL Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Christian Vazquez, were sent down in trades.

In a phone interview Wednesday morning, Chaim Bloom, the team’s chief baseball officer, explained why the time was right for Devers to make a long-term commitment — and why it wasn’t quite right for others to do the same.

Bloom said, “We definitely want to keep him here and we want to build around him, and I know we’ve had players in recent history that we’ve felt like and that’s not going to work.” could.”

“The difference now is when you are placing those bets, it is not just about the talent of the player, it is also about the position of the organization and are you in a good position to back the bet? You’re in a good position to lay the foundation around that core piece that will allow you to maximize a player’s prime years?And simply put, I think we’re better positioned for it now than we were a few years ago. ready in a way.

It’s impossible to know exactly how long-term deals with Bates and Bogarts — or the Red Sox’ other undetected free agents — could have changed the team’s long-term outlook. But Bates and Bogarts are four years older than Devers, and Bloom believes the timeline matches up better with Devers, whose prime may coincide more closely with Boston’s next glory era.

Then again, predicting the fate of the Red Sox has been troubling for years. After a last-place finish in 2012, they signed some midlevel free agents and won the 2013 World Series. After two more last-place seasons, they won three consecutive division titles, which culminated in a 2018 World Series title.

A mediocre follow-up season prompted Henry to fire Dave Dombrowski, a potential Hall of Fame executive who specialized in building superstars through acquisitions. The hiring of Bloom, who had been a top executive with the frugal and successful Tampa Bay Rays, a division rival, signaled a change in philosophy.

Bloom stresses that this isn’t quite right. He believed that the Red Sox needed to make tough decisions without tearing them apart – that is, try to struggle without being reckless and without undermining the future. Their three seasons have reflected the range of results of that kind of strategy: last place in 2020, a surprise trip to the American League Championship Series in 2021, and last place again in 2022.

Bloom said, “Turn the clock back three years to when I got here.” “You had a club that was obviously having a lot of success recently but was clearly not in a position where it was at the top of the division or anywhere. Talent to replenish that roster Wasn’t close to the farm system, and had quite a few commitments on the books. Not a great position to be in.

“And, really, the strategy all along has been to reset the table for a run of extended success, but to try to do it in a way where we’re winning while we’re doing it. In this No doubt trying to serve both Masters is a heavy lift. We were able to do it in 2021. Obviously in ’22, for a number of reasons, it didn’t work out. But the way you do it He replenishes the organization while maintaining elements of that core as much as you can with young talent. We’ve got some young guys coming up — some of them poised to play really key roles in ’23. are going – and there’s a lot more coming behind it.

“If you keep making massive commitment after massive commitment, you never really get out of the treading water around them.”

The Red Sox have largely avoided such deals until recently. Officially, they have only three players signed beyond 2024: pitcher Garrett Whitlock, infielder Trevor Story and outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who signed last month for five years and $90 million after a decorated career in Japan. .

Their other deals this winter have been risk-averse: two years each for infielder Justin Turner and right-handed relievers Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin, and one year for right-handed starter Corey Kluber and lefty reliever Joely Rodriguez. The team expects three young pitchers — Whitlock, Tanner Houck and Brian Bello — to establish themselves in the rotation, but the veteran starters — Kluber, Chris Sale, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta — provide little certainty.

The 2023 outlook would be different if the Red Sox had made a strong offer to Bogarts before free agency or matched the Padres’ winning bid (11 years, $280 million). They could move aggressively on another pick from a deep class of free agents. His inaction made you wonder if Henry just didn’t want to pay the rising rates for superstars anymore.

Would the Red Sox make that type of investment again? Bloom insisted Wednesday morning that they would.

“Absolutely – when it aligns with victory,” he said. “The end point is winning. It’s not commitment for its own sake. It’s commitment so you can win. As we see it, you win with them when they are part of a complete team and a complete organization. Every With the move, whether it’s a waiver claim or a larger, multi-year contract, the endpoint is always: Is this going to help us deliver to our fans what we’re here to deliver, who watch baseball on an annual basis? winning? And if the answer is yes, then this is something we should be pursuing.”

The Red Sox have passed on many of those options. They will be nobody’s favorites in the AL East. But a deal for Devers is a strong sign that a stubbornly pragmatic front office believes in its long-term direction.

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