Mason: Red Sox were right to move on from Dave Dombrowski

Less than 11 months after winning a World Series, the Red Sox have axed Dave Dombrowski. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

BOSTON — Dave Dombrowski did exactly what the Red Sox hired him to. It's the right time to move on from him. 

Both of these things can be true. And they are. 

In August of 2015, Dombrowski arrived in Boston with a ready-made reputation as an exec that was keen on star power and never shied away from a deal. Inheriting a mediocre team with a bustling farm system, Dombrowski was tasked with harvesting. 

He did that. 

The president of baseball operations traded for All-Stars Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel, signed David Price to a record-breaking deal, and won three straight AL East titles and a World Series. Job well done. 

But now the team must be forward-thinking, something Dombrowski struggled with in the months following his championship. 

In re-signing World Series heroes Steve Pearce and Nate Eovaldi, the team lost all flexibility to sign a reliever, a far greater area of need. The farm system is now frequently ranked among the worst in baseball, and with almost $80 million tied up in Eovaldi, Price and Chris Sale next season — all of whom have serious injury red flags — funds for a Mookie Betts extension are unnecessarily tight. 

Things may be pretty in the rearview mirror, but the road ahead is littered with potholes, and the Sox have already started to smoke them. 

Dombrowski wasn't just fired because the team is going to miss the playoffs this year. That's oversimplifying the situation; there's far more in play than that. 

With a contract set to expire after the 2020 season, the Red Sox were never going to let Dombrowski go into a lame duck year.

"This day in age it probably doesn't make sense for your general manager to go into his final year without a contract," principal owner John Henry said in February. "So that would mean something should happen this year."

(We're left to use spring training quotes here because the Red Sox refused to hold a press conference yesterday, an embarrassing decision, but that's a different story.) 

Henry's logic is sound.

Executives without contracts are apt to make self-serving deals to save their own jobs rather than ones that will serve the team well long term. It's human nature. 

So faced with a quasi-rebuild, the Red Sox had a decision to make this fall, less than a year after winning it all: Is Dombrowski worth investing in long term?

It's a complicated question with a simple answer. 

No. 

Dombrowski's inactivity at the trade deadline showed a lack of vision moving forward. If he believed he'd constructed a roster that could make a real run, the Sox architect should have added to give his team a spark.

If Dombrowski saw what we see now: A team doomed to finish third, he should have sold to replenish the farm system. 

If you want to see what one deadline of selling can do, look no further than the Yankees in 2016. Acknowledging his team didn't have it, Brian Cashman traded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran, and now the Yanks are far better positioned for years to come. 

Dombrowski could have set the Sox up similarly, but instead he opted to stand pat, neither improving the team in the present nor the future. It's a difficult call, but one talent evaluators like Dombrowski are supposed to make shrewdly. He simply didn't. 

The recent successes also must come with another caveat: Dombrowski has been given far more money to play with than anybody else. 

That World Series title didn't come cheap. The Red Sox spent outspent everybody in baseball in 2018, and that remains the case this season.

Nobody has come close to touching Boston's payroll, and with it looking more and more bloated, it's hard to fault ownership. They're paying $240 million for a third place team.

Dombrowski came as advertised, and the Red Sox have a World Series banner to show for it, but in the words on the late Tom Petty, "It's time to move on, time to get going." 

Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at cmason@northofboston.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason

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