Reeling from a 69-93 record in 2012, Red Sox Nation has one question: how soon?
How soon until a return to dominance? How soon until a return to relevance? How soon until the Boston Red Sox are out of American League East cellar?
Well, if you're an optimist, this article isn't for you. A one-year turnaround is not realistic. But two to three is. And seeing how long some teams can struggle, that should be considered "not taking long."
If you can subscribe to that thought process, then the next question has to be "how do we get back to that point?"
Well my friends, read on.
After months of trying, Boston has finally landed their man.
Many will remember Farrell from his days as Boston's pitching coach. In fact, his first year with the club they ended up winning the 2007 World Series.
Now Farrell is back, this time as manager. He knows the team, knows the AL East and appears to be a choice everyone will be happy with—front office and players included.
Moving forward, the team finally has a captain for their ship. Hopefully this one keeps things afloat.
With a 4.37 team ERA over the last three seasons, the Sox's pitching woes are well documented. The team's 5.84 ERA last September was the biggest factor in their epic collapse.
While Boston won't see an immediate turnaround in 2013, relief should be on its way.
For starters, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz provide the Sox with a base to build off of. While both pitchers struggled in 2012, their track records provide reason for optimism.
There's also Rubby De La Rosa, who should be a valuable No. 3/4 guy moving forward—I expect him to break into the Boston rotation come 2013.
But the team's true depth lies in their farm system.
Matt Barnes and Allen Webster were both impressive in 2012, and should both debut within the next two years. Both players have the ceiling of a fringe No. 1/2 starter.
Lower in the system are young guns like Anthony Ranaudo, Drake Britton and Henry Owens. All three saw ups-and-downs in 2012, but retain high ceilings.
After two seasons of cascading up the prospect ladder, Will Middlebrooks entered 2012 as the consensus No. 1 prospect in the Sox system.
Hitting .333/.380/.677 with nine home runs in 25 games at AAA, the 24-year old soon received a promotion to The Show. Over his next 75 games, Middlebrooks would post a .835 OPS with 15 home runs for Boston.
For the first time since Kevin Youkilis, the Sox system has developed a legitimate middle of the order bat.
Not only is his emergence a confidence boost to Boston's development staff, it also provides a lynchpin for the team moving forward.
This Boston Red Sox team is incredibly young. And while that can be a boon, a team needs leadership. Even post Los Angeles Dodgers blockbuster, the Sox have veterans to build around.
The most obvious leader is Dustin Pedroia—who enters 2013 a seven-year veteran. He's a product of the Boston system, and should be a core player for the rest of his career.
Unfortunately, Boston risks losing two great leaders in David Ortiz—16 years experience—and Cody Ross—nine years.
So long as both resign with the club, the Sox will have plenty of experience moving forward.
While the August blockbuster made it appear like Boston was giving up a lot, it blessed the Sox with their best asset moving forward: flexibility.
With the Dodgers picking up the huge contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, Boston shed over $250 million in future payroll.
Even if they resign Ortiz and Ross, the Sox could shed up to $20 million more in the 2013 offseason.
Boston remains a club with deep pockets, and now they have plenty of free payroll to fill them with.
It's a bold statement to make, but it's just as bold to deny the possibility.
Jacoby Ellsbury is coming off another disappointing, injury rattled, season. He's also said to be looking for superstar money.
Ellsbury proved he has that level of talent in 2011, but his full body of work doesn't match the price.
If Boston can land the center fielder at the right price, it would make sense to keep him long term. But if the Sox spend big, they'll be finding themselves right back in the money wasting hole.
If the Sox do decide to part ways with Ellsbury, they won't be hurting for long. Top prospect Jackie Bradley, Jr. has the tools and potential to anchor the top of Boston's lineup.
When a ball club has youth, it gives them plenty of room to grow into a real team.
Buchholz, Lester, Pedroia, Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia sit between 27 and 29 years old, all within their prime.
Middlebrooks is 24, and could be joined in 2013 by Jose Iglesias (22) and Ryan Lavarnway (25).
For the first time in a while, Boston is a young club. That gives them room to grow, and even more importantly, room to build their own identity.
The atmosphere around the clubhouse has been poisonous to say the least. With most of the "problem players" gone—Manny Ramirez and Josh Beckett to name a few—the Sox are young enough to finally rebuild their image.
So far we've discussed Boston's young pitching depth, Will Middlebrooks and the potential of Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Through all these slides, I haven't even discussed Boston's current top prospect, shortstop Xander Bogaerts. And if Jackie Bradley doesn't take over in center, there's always Bryce Brentz.
The point is, Boston's developing a deep and talented farm system.
It could get even deeper. A silver lining of a losing record: the Sox will draft seventh in the 2013 amateur draft. It'll be their highest spot in years, and could lead to an MLB ready pitcher like Mark Appel.
Combined with their financial flexibility, the Sox have the pieces needed to rebuild a contender sooner than later.