It’s time to start taking stock of what the 2023 Boston Red Sox actually are.

Fans have spent most of the offseason gnashing their teeth and wailing over what the Red Sox aren’t. They’re a team without Xander Bogaerts. They’re a team not willing to spend big money. They’re a team that wasn’t in on any of the big free agents.

Boston’s inactivity earned plenty of criticism. That finally changed last week when news broke that the team had reached an agreement with third baseman Rafael Devers on an 11-year contract pending medical evaluation.

(Note: we often take the “pending medical evaluation” for granted. Carlos Correa’s agreement with the Giants fell through because of his medical evaluation, and his deal with the Mets appears to be falling apart for the same reason. Medical evaluations matter.)

The deal with Devers, 26, feels like the beginning of the future for the Red Sox. They’ve extended their best player for more than a decade. More importantly, they signed a player who is theoretically just entering his prime baseball years.

Mariners Red Sox Baseball

Boston Red Sox’s Rafael Devers, right, watches his home run in the third inning in a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Saturday, May 21, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Bogaerts is 30. He signed an 11-year contract with the Padres that will keep him in San Diego into his 40s. By comparison, Devers will be only 38 at the end of his deal.


Last fall I spoke with Manager Alex Cora about the future direction of the franchise. Cora said he was excited by the prospect of Devers signing a long-term deal. Devers is a far more mature player now than he was when he made his major league debut before he was old enough to legally buy a drink. Cora wants to see more than maturity from his third baseman. He wants to see leadership.

Now, after signing a deal that makes him the cornerstone of the franchise, we should see more of it. With no Bogaerts in the clubhouse this will become Devers’ team.

The deal also showed fans that the Red Sox are willing to spend big money on their players, even though they won’t be spending it to lock up players past their prime. In addition to the Devers deal, Bloom signed Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida to a five-year contract worth $90 million. He’ll be 35 years old at the end of that deal. That’s the same age Trevor Story will be at the end of his six-year, $140 million contract. Pitcher Garrett Whitlock signed a four-year extension with two club options that keep him under control until he’s 32.

When Bloom arrived in Boston he vowed to build a team that can win championships in a sustainable manner. That meant he didn’t want to overpay free agents past their prime.

That belief cost the team generational talents like Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, two of the most popular players in the history of the franchise. It has cost the ownership group much of the goodwill it built up by ending an 86-year drought and bringing four World Series championships to Boston.

Where does it all go from here? The Sox had Devers — and Bogaerts — on the roster last year and still finished in last place. As presently constructed they don’t appear to be a lot better than that. Yet the trade market has not really materialized around the industry, and the Sox have been rumored to be looking to improve the team’s lineup and rotation through trades.


Yet the future is taking shape. Devers and Triston Casas are the cornerstone corner infielders. Marcelo Mayer is the superstar in waiting. Whitlock, Tanner Houck and Bryan Bello are the young core of the pitching staff.

And the farm system is much better than it was when Bloom arrived in 2019. That means he can watch the organization’s top prospects like Ceddanne Rafaela, Nick Yorke, Bryan Mata and others work their way to the big leagues. Or he could use some of that depth in a trade to make the team better now.

There are a lot of ifs surrounding the 2023 Red Sox. If Chris Sale and James Paxton stay healthy the rotation could be OK. If Reese Maguire can continue his late-season resurgence the catching situation should be fine. If Story and Kiké Hernández stay healthy the team should hit more home runs.

If they don’t, it could be another long summer at Fenway.

Yet the mood around Fenway is a lot better today, after the Red Sox made a statement by locking up their best player with the biggest contract in the history of the franchise.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. He is a graduate of Lewiston High School.

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