Nathan Eovaldi – remember him? – has made 24 starts for the Texas Rangers this season after signing a two-year, $34 million deal with the team last winter. Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The end is near. The Boston Red Sox finish their season this week, playing out the string with six games against the two teams fighting for the top spot in the American League East.

There will be no playoff baseball in Boston for the third time in four years. It’s a sad slide into the offseason and a stark reminder that a new direction is needed.

The Red Sox began the final week of the regular season in last place. Many of us didn’t see this coming back in midseason when they were flirting with the wild-card race. We didn’t see them losing 14 of 21 heading into this final week, completely falling apart over the final month of the season.

It has all fallen apart for Boston, and a third losing season in four years seems all but certain. The offseason, which will begin with a search for a new head of baseball operations, can’t start soon enough. Where does that new executive begin?

With pitching, of course. The Red Sox starting rotation was too thin to compete for an entire season. The lack of innings from starters through July and August ultimately doomed the bullpen, exhausted from overwork, in September.

Fixing a staff in one offseason is a daunting task, but it can be done. Just look at the Texas Rangers.

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Texas took two of three from the Red Sox last week and have moved into first place in the AL West. They’re also the perfect blueprint for Boston to follow. Last year the Rangers won just 68 games and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season. Now, they’re most likely headed into the postseason, possibly with a bye.

How did they turn it around so quickly? By adding pitching, an expensive and risky task.

Some of their bets didn’t pay off. Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million) made only six starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Jake Odorizzi (acquired via trade) spent the entire season on the injured list and never pitched.

But former Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (two years, $34 million plus vesting options) had an All-Star season and made his 24th start of the season Sunday. The Rangers won 15 of his 24 starts. And Andrew Heaney (two years, $25 million) has appeared in 31 games, filling in as both a reliever and a starter.

During another soggy weekend at Fenway, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora talked about the need to revamp the starting rotation. He pulled no punches in making it clear that some of the pitchers on this year’s staff are going to have to work to be in the mix next season.

“My advice will be for us to get a few arms, and then we will have to make tough decisions in spring training, and those guys have to go to Triple-A and be ready to come up here,” Cora said over the weekend.

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“The whole revolving door with options is real,” Cora said. “That’s how you survive tough stretches and injuries. That’s the way I see it going forward. I’ll talk to whoever I have to talk to in the upcoming weeks or months and go from there. We have to make sure that in spring training we make tough decisions. Tough decisions are the guys that have been part of this for the last two or three years, and they have options, if they don’t make the team they have to go to Worcester.”

Cora knows that your starting depth can’t be in the bullpen. That’s what happened this season, and when the rotation was plagued by injuries it took too long for relievers to get stretched out. While the Sox need to target top-of-the-rotation starters this winter, they also have to come into 2024 with starting pitchers who are going deep in Triple-A games. Pitchers ready to take the baton when injuries happen.

Adding front-end and back-end pitchers will be costly. And risky. But as the Texas Rangers have shown us, it’s the quickest way back from a sub-.500 mess.

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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