It's been a long and trying year for the Boston Red Sox, both on and off the field, with acrimony and uncertainty rearing their ugly heads at almost every turn.
The air of negativity surrounding the club will be swept away soon, however, as the Red Sox are set to announce a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to bring manager John Farrell to Boston in the same capacity. How long the honeymoon lasts is anyone's best guess at this point, but at the very least, the Red Sox can now move forward with some semblance of stability between the front office and clubhouse.
Long rumored to have been the Red Sox' first choice in their managerial search, Farrell is no stranger to the complex intricacies that permeate the corridors of Fenway Park, having spent four seasons as the pitching coach for the Red Sox (2007-2010).
Even as he spent two seasons managing in Toronto, Farrell maintained strong ties to the organization, and those bonds should be most evident in his handling of the team's pitching staff, as his relationship with both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz is well documented.
That said, the move to extricate Farrell from the Blue Jays will undoubtedly raise several significant questions, as the performance on the field in Toronto did not match the expectations of the club when they hired Farrell to be their manager two seasons ago. The Blue Jays struggled to compete in the highly competitive American League East division and finished just four games ahead of the catastrophic Red Sox squad this past year.
Whether or not Toronto's struggles can be laid at the feet of Farrell remains to be seen, but you can bet that if the Red Sox are unable to turn around their misfortune next season, the always feisty Boston media will make life difficult for Farrell.
How will the Red Sox fare next season under John Farrell?
How he responds to such scrutiny will ultimately determine his success in Boston, as the best Red Sox managers have been the ones capable of navigating both the internal and external politics, pushing the right buttons when the going gets rough.
Farrell's first order of business will be to fumigate the hostile atmosphere of the Red Sox clubhouse, rebuild the fractured bonds between the management and the players and sway the leaders of the team to be his advocates on the field. Given his previous success as pitching coach in Boston, that task should prove to be reasonably easy, but as Farrell's predecessor found out very quickly, things can can change overnight in Boston, and players who were once on your side can quickly become your worst enemy if caution is not exercised.
The acquisition of Farrell did not come without a cost for the Red Sox, as they will reportedly send starting shortstop Mike Aviles north of the border as compensation for Farrell's services. Aviles started last season with a bang, hitting for power and playing excellent defense, but he was unable to carry his early success into the second half of the season and was eventually benched to make room for highly regarded prospect Jose Iglesias.
Aviles' departure leaves a hole in the Red Sox batting order, as Iglesias has still not proven himself to be able to handle big league pitching, but the club may be willing to sacrifice offense in favor of Iglesias' outstanding defense, if they're able to add some punch to their lineup in other spots.
To complete the trade, the Blue Jays will be required to ship a player on their 40-man roster back to Boston, but it's doubtful it will be anyone with value to the organization, given the outcomes of previous managerial trades at the major league level.
Farrell's tenure in Boston will begin with a true clean slate, with the Red Sox having cleared a massive amount of payroll from their books in the August trade of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers, and while the going will be rough initially, the standard by which he'll ultimately be judged is whether he can engineer a quick return to the postseason.
If he proves capable of that, the sky will be the limit. If not, his time in Boston will be short, along with that of general manager Ben Cherington, who has tied his future with Boston to Farrell's, for better or worse.