Ben Cherington had a season to remember in 2013.
Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington goes into this offseason knowing that he can do almost anything and take his team in almost any direction he wants. Cherington can choose to be bold and aggressive or he can choose to lay back and let the market come to him.
That's what happens when you win a World Series title in a transition year, a year that was expected to be a bridge to the next wave of talent coming from the Red Sox farm system.
As great as the season was at the major league level, the organization at minor league levels was just as successful, being ranked as baseball's top farm system by Baseball America in their year-end rankings.
Tops in the majors. Tops in the minors. Things could actually get better for the Red Sox moving forward and the 2013 season could prove to be the launching point for something special.
The reason the future looks very bright for Boston right now is because the Red Sox didn't have to sacrifice any of the future in order to win in the present. Cherington can look at a rotation built around Jon Lester, Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz and slowly begin to transition Henry Owens and Anthony Ranaudo into the team's plans over the next year.
Boston's fan base can look at Xander Bogaerts anchoring the team's infield over the next decade and feel very confident about that, whether that is at shortstop or third base.
Cherington can try to pull the trigger on a move for Giancarlo Stanton, giving the Red Sox a big slugger in the middle of the lineup or he can continue to provide opportunities to younger players to become stars.
If Cherington decides to let star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury leave, he knows the public backlash will be far less because he has a title and a plan to point to. If the Red Sox decide to move on from Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Cherington will get the benefit of the doubt from Red Sox followers because he has earned it.
More than any other person in the Red Sox organization, Cherington benefited from the team's compete meltdown in 2012. That season caused the Red Sox to finally hit rock bottom and look squarely in the mirror.
As bad as the 2012 season was, something good came from it. It served to put the decision-making power back into the baseball operations department. It put Cherington back into position to be calling the shots based on what was best for building a team, not what was going to make the biggest splash in the media. The Red Sox returned to being the player development machine that Epstein once talked about.
Boston's front office could potentially have four top picks in next June's MLB draft or they could decide to be players in free agency and in the trade market. Either way, it will be a case of the rich getting richer.