The Boston Red Sox are setting up Chaim Bloom to fail.
Its end came shortly after its beginning. One hundred and eight days after Fenway Sports Group hired Bloom as president of baseball, John Henry’s ownership group allowed Mookie Betts to be sold to the Dodgers. This move did not make sense at the time. It makes even less sense now, three years later, with Betts vying for another MVP title in Los Angeles and Bloom getting the heat in Boston.
That decision wiped out Bloom’s term, which ended abruptly Thursday afternoon. It was used as a shield during the murky Red Sox era, in which the franchise squandered nearly every bit of goodwill generated by the 2018 World Series. As has happened so often over the past few years, the timing was odd: Henry would be looking for a new leader for his baseball operations department, days away. Only the Mets have reached an agreement on the top free-agent prospect, the former Milwaukee Brewers general manager. David Stearns.
The Red Sox hired Bloom, who had spent 15 years in Tampa Bay’s small-market laboratory, to build a sustainable juggernaut, a consistent winner who had not experienced the boom-and-bust cycles the franchise experienced during the 2000s. Ownership’s patience with Bloom lasted less than four full seasons, including an appearance in the 2021 American League Championship Series. That flirtation with discord was not enough to secure Bloom’s continued oversight of the company, which comes as no shock. Dave Dombrowski was disqualified just 10 months after winning the 2018 World Series. Winning the 2013 World Series couldn’t protect Ben Cherington.
Bloom achieved less than his predecessors. The 2023 Red Sox are above .500 and in last place in the American League East, a result that is emblematic of the uncertain direction of the franchise. Bloom has built a good lineup but a subpar pitching staff backed by one of the worst defenses in the league. “We need to pitch,” third baseman Rafael Devers said before the trade deadline, when the Red Sox were still in the wild-card race, but Bloom effectively stood. When examining the current roster and improving farm system, there are reasons to believe better days are coming, just as there are reasons to believe the franchise has fallen woefully behind its more economical counterparts in Baltimore and Tampa. They’re not even exercising their financial advantage the way they once did: In 2023, the Red Sox fell out of the top 10 on the Opening Day payroll, after years of hovering around the top five.
The Red Sox seemed stuck between rebuilding cycles and contending cycles, unable to keep up with baseball’s toughest divisions. Ownership is to blame for two bizarre moves over the past year, when the team first failed to sign Xander Bogaerts to an extension, then offered him about $160 million less before turning to a $313.5 million extension for Devers. The Red Sox seemed confused about who they wanted to be all this time. The downward spiral began when the franchise parted ways with Betts a year before his free agency.
The idea of trading Bates did not originate with Bloom. In the summer of 2019, Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, engaged in lengthy discussions with Dombrowski about a trade. Negotiations faltered when the Red Sox had a short winning streak. But that winter, after Dombrowski was fired, Friedman reached out to Bloom, his former lieutenant in Tampa Bay. The Red Sox wanted to reduce their luxury tax payroll after exceeding the competitive balance threshold in 2018 and 2019. Bloom was assigned to work with Bates to make this happen.
The trade seemed lopsided from the start. The Dodgers waived outfielder Alex Verdugo, catcher Connor Wong and infielder Jeter Downs. To sweeten the deal, the Dodgers ate about half of Boston’s $96 million pitcher owed to Boston. Betts, the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player, shined in Los Angeles. He signed a 12-year, $365 million extension during the pandemic-stricken summer of 2020. That fall, he helped the Dodgers end a 32-year championship drought. He’s a perennial All-Star, a Gold Glove player capable of playing three different positions, the type of player they should never give up on.
But Henry’s group did. And the franchise never recovered. Boston waived Downs last winter. Verdugo, 27, was an adequate if unspectacular performer. Wong, 27, has had a solid year in 2023. These are good players. Most fans would rather watch Mookie Betts. The ownership group has yet to release a product capable of scratching that itch.
Bloom fortified the organization’s infrastructure, made a variety of useful additions and helped the farm system. However, he spent so much time looking at the long road, that he no longer had a place. Rival executives found that his deliberate, painstaking process left him embarrassed at moments like the trade deadline. His decision to trade forward Cristian Vazquez last summer upset his club, but Bloom held on to pending free agents like Nathan Eovaldi or J.D. Martinez, which kept the club above the luxury tax threshold.
After Bogaerts left for San Diego, Bloom had few options when Trevor Story, Bogaerts’ replacement at shortstop, underwent elbow surgery. The defense suffered as a result. The Red Sox were never able to escape the basement of the American League East.
“The results we expect as an organization have not been there,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said He said Thursday.
Then again, Bates wasn’t there either. For this reason, and because of the decision imposed on him by his superiors months after his arrival, Bloom is no longer one.
(Top photo: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
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