HOUSTON -- John W. Henry was willing to blow up the Boston Red Sox roster twice in three years, because he wasn't interested in a beauty contest. He said as much barely seven weeks ago. If it was clear in July that the Red Sox had no chance of contending, he said, he didn't care if they finished last in October. Better to begin the rebuilding process immediately, rather than scrounge for a few extra wins.
In 2012, it was farewell to Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in the damnedest trade in Sox history. Last July, the ties were cut with Jon Lester, Andrew Miller, John Lackey and Jake Peavy. And now, after a sixth straight loss has sucked the remaining oxygen out of the Red Sox's season, the team is in a similar stage of disarray, and there is little question what should take place in the coming days.
This season is beyond salvaging. The Sox are 10 games under .500 and 10 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. They are a beaten team, and look every bit the part. After Tuesday night's 8-3 loss to the Houston Astros, they have scored a total of seven runs in five games.
Boston manager John Farrell is improvising a starting rotation on the back of a cocktail napkin. While the team's best pitcher, Clay Buchholz, flies out for a second opinion on his strained forearm from Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Florida, Joe Kelly is being airlifted in from Triple-A Pawtucket, even though he hasn't exactly made a convincing case that he's figured out anything since his demotion.
On Tuesday, it was rookie lefty Brian Johnson making his big league debut. The day before it was knuckleballer Steven Wright and another rookie, Eduardo Rodriguez. When the season began, Justin Masterson was in the rotation. After a horror-show relief outing Tuesday -- two hit batsmen, a wild pitch, a two-run home run -- Masterson walked out of the clubhouse even before the doors had been open to the postgame media horde, and the pensive look on his face suggested that he knew he was not promised tomorrow.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington arrived here Tuesday, meeting the team upon its arrival from Anaheim. Nine days before the trading deadline, there is no deal Cherington could make that would reverse the wreckage of this season. It is time to start planning for 2016.
Unlike in 2012, when the newly flush Dodgers were willing to take Gonzalez & Co. off Cherington's hands, there is no prospective partner to undo the damage wrought by the offseason signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval -- profound disappointments that probably shouldn't have surprised anyone. There were enough red flags with both players to temper the allure of bats that were supposed to restore thunder to the Boston lineup. When something looks too good to be true, it usually is. But for now at least, they're stuck with both players. What Cherington must do is see what he can get for some of the other veterans on the roster.
Shane Victorino, a winning player, played both ends of Monday's doubleheader. Perhaps it will convince a contender in need of an outfield bat that he can stay healthy down the stretch. Mike Napoli, like Victorino as such a vital piece in 2013 and still playing the game right even as he struggles to hit, now has an expiration date. The Sox should take whatever they can get for him, even if it means eating most of the remainder of his contract. Consider it a sunk cost, and move on.
Begin the Ramirez-at-first experiment now, rather than discovering it won't work next March. Alejandro De Aza, who has played with real energy and skill since coming from Baltimore, should have some attraction for a contender. Koji Uehara has a year left on his contract, but even at 40, he remains one of the team's most valuable assets and might bring back enough of a return to at least think about moving him.
Jackie Bradley Jr. should be here. Give him the chance denied him this season and find out whether he can hit on this level. Rusney Castillo, too. If a Bradley-Betts-Castillo outfield isn't a viable option in 2016, find out now.
The makings of a strong nucleus going forward has revealed itself: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez (if he returns to health), Rodriguez and Johnson. Those are guys you can build around. Find out now if Bradley and Castillo can join them. Get Henry Owens up here, too, and see what he can do.
It's time to abandon the pretense of winning in 2015. Get a head start on 2016, and the sooner the better. And it doesn't just begin and end on the playing field. Henry, who prides himself on being ruled by logic, has to re-examine his commitment to the current management team. Everything should be on the table.