Boston Red Sox

Relief. That’s the first word that came to mind following the news of the Red Sox extending Rafael Devers to an 11-year, $331 MM deal on Wednesday night. The dark cloud that had emerged following the trade of Mookie Betts in 2020 was finally gone after almost 3 long years.

That’s no disrespect to the 2021 season either, which was a rollercoaster ride that almost ended with rings on everyone’s finger. Still, even during those moments, the worries about extensions for Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers lingered. It became the main storyline for the Red Sox heading into 2022, despite the Trevor Story signing and the team having championship aspirations.

Sacrificing Betts for financial flexibility was supposed to free the Red Sox from ever being in that position again, according to the front office, but their actions didn’t always match their words. Especially once fans found out about the botched negotiations with Bogaerts that included an extension offer of 4-years, $90 MM.

All of this build-up and frustration led to a single moment that set the tone for the 2022 season. It was Bogaerts’ press conference before Opening Day, where he seemed disappointed and cold as he told reporters the two sides couldn’t get a deal done. It felt like the dark cloud expanded to new levels, and it was impossible to shake as they see-sawed up and down before settling in the cellar.

There was never a dull moment. Constant questions throughout the season about where his head was at knowing free agency was approaching. Comments from Scott Boras that brought the headline right back into discussion every few weeks. It only got worse once the trade deadline rolled around and the Red Sox were quickly playing for nothing.

That doesn’t include almost every other player on the team being asked about Bogaerts’ importance to the team on a weekly basis, from Chris Sale down to Christian Arroyo. It was impossible to escape the dark cloud. If you were around the Red Sox, you were getting rained on.

Looking back, it was clear to everyone that Bogaerts wasn’t himself. His teammates and friends noticed and did their best to help him unplug by going out after games. But when the leader of your team is carrying that type of weight on their shoulders, everyone can feel it from the guys on the field to the fans in the stands.

That dark cloud brought a torrential downpour when the Red Sox finally became serious about extending Bogaerts following the 2022 season and he had his sights set on free agency. Fans felt relief for a few hours before he signed with the Padres, as it looked like a return to the Red Sox was in the works, but the botched negotiations from the spring came back to bite them. It took one mad man to throw everything out of whack and it was A.J. Preller.

Bogaerts was dubbed the organization’s “top priority” and yet the Red Sox departed the Winter Meetings with their Plan A completely blown to shreds.

  • Jan 15, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox baseball officer Chaim Bloom talks with the media at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 15, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox baseball officer Chaim Bloom talks with the media at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Entering the offseason, the hopes were for the Red Sox to rebound from 2022 with their wallets, with an expectation of going over the first luxury tax threshold at the very least ($233 MM). It quickly became clear that didn’t make much sense anymore after they stayed away from the other top names on the market and withdrew their 3-year offer to Nate Eovaldi.

    Discourse and morale surrounding the team after Bogaerts’ departure was awful. Fans rebelled against the front office and ownership, pointing back to their reasoning for the Mookie Betts trade and calling them liars. It was fair to feel that way, not because the Red Sox didn’t match the insane offer from the Padres, but because Bogaerts would’ve reportedly taken a similar deal to Jose Altuve’s extension back in the spring. The Red Sox have failed to read the market correctly and it set them back.

    Now, the focus was solely on one guy, Rafael Devers. While his best friend and mentor on the team had departed, he was the young superstar that the organization couldn’t afford to lose. Media and fans alike were piling on the Red Sox, fairly doubting whether they’d ever pay a homegrown talent like Devers again.

    Yes, missing out on Bogaerts had likely set you a year or two back, but losing out on Devers would set you back four to five. There was no excuse to ever haggle a 26-year-old entering his prime and only getting better on both sides of the ball. Especially considering the financial situation of the franchise, which was the polar-opposite of where things stood at the time of the Betts trade.

    Joon Lee of ESPN’s report last month that the Red Sox were “galaxies apart” in talks with Devers and that his agents expected to reach free agency only fanned the flames. Now, the trade conversation surrounding Devers became very real, bringing us right back to the origin of when this dark cloud first arrived.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 15: Red Sox Owner John Henry addresses the departure of Alex Cora as manager of the Boston Red Sox during a press conference at Fenway Park on January 15, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. A MLB investigation concluded that Cora was involved in the Houston Astros sign stealing operation in 2017 while he was the bench coach. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 15: Red Sox Owner John Henry addresses the departure of Alex Cora as manager of the Boston Red Sox during a press conference at Fenway Park on January 15, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. A MLB investigation concluded that Cora was involved in the Houston Astros sign stealing operation in 2017 while he was the bench coach. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    There was no way history was going to repeat itself, right? No, Red Sox owner John Henry wasn’t going to allow it. After months of being trampled by fans and media, he woke up from his slumber and shooed away the dark cloud that swallowed this organization. While it didn’t change anything dramatically for 2023, it allowed fans to breathe for the first time in a long time knowing he still cared.

    There’s not a front office mind in the sport of baseball that wouldn’t have extended Rafael Devers if given the proper funds to do so. That’s an equation as simple as 1+1=2. It took Henry putting his wallet on the table and ponying up the 6th-largest contract in the history of baseball.

    The future isn’t so blurry anymore. The main piece of the foundation is Rafael Devers, and while 2023 likely represents a bridge year, the third baseman will still be in his prime as the likes of Brayan Bello, Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, and more establish themselves as the next core in the coming years. Not to mention, the vibes of the clubhouse should do a complete 180 with all this stuff past them.

    Exhale. There’s a plan. And that’s not saying there haven’t been a few different ones, but this one is finally coming into focus and it makes sense.

    It all starts with the new face of the Boston Red Sox, Rafael Devers.

  • I'm not sure anyone celebrated the Devers extension more than me on Twitter...

  • Pretty crazy to see how far Rafael Devers has come in the last decade...