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These Red Sox Now Belong To Ben: The Wolf of Yawkey Way

Oakland A's GM Billy Beane has "Moneyball."

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has big, brass . . . well, you know.

And he's got something Beane doesn't have as a GM - a World Series ring.

The 2015 Boston Kansas City Red Sox belong to Ben Cherington now.

He is the "Wolf of Yawkey Way." They are his creation. Their success or failure is now on him and no one else.

Sorry, Larry Lucchino. You may "run the Red Sox," but it is clear that Cherington decides who stays and who goes. He does not set the budget, of course, but once he's given that dollar amount, the moves are indeed his.

That point was solidified on Thursday. After completing a roster purge that would impress Michael Corleone, Cherington gave a frank 35-minute press conference where he took responsibility for the team's current plight at least four times.

Cherington was careful to give credit to the "15 or so" people who hung out with him in his office through the wee hours of Thursday, when the deal for Jon Lester was finished at "about 4 in the morning,"

The Red Sox are unquestionably obsessed when it comes to public image. That works both ways, When you craft images of World Series celebrations and epic pre-game ceremonies, everything is watched with a sharper eye.

Thus it was telling that Cherington sat there alone at that infamous table inside the Fenway Park interview room Thursday, as the wreckage of the 2014 was strewn about the internet and Twitter. Gone was anyone with team ownership. John Henry, who of course owns boston.com and the Boston Globe, was caught by the WCVB-TV cameras giving Lester a goodbye hug earlier in the day.

But what of Tom Werner and Lucchino? Certainly they were around, somewhere.

This has happened before. When Theo Epstein dealt Nomar Garciaparra in a deal that helped push the Red Sox over the "Curse of the Bambino" hump in 2004 (thank you Dave Roberts), there was no one from ownership at his side when he discussed the details of the deal.

In 2012, when the Red Sox dumped $260-million-plus of payroll on the Dodgers, essentially admitting their philosophy of recent years was a failure, Cherington sat alone at the same podium inside Fenway Park to announce the details of Boston's organ transplant.

Cherington sat alone again on Thursday and smiled at least once. Once he turned off his smartphone, he was focused, confident, somber, and contrite. He admitted the team switched into sell mode once the Red Sox lost the third game of the Toronto series in Canada last week and then crumbled once again in St. Petersburg. The focus turned to "listening for trades for our veteran players."

These moves won't be the last when it comes to building the 2015 roster and, he said, the team wanted to focus on bolstering its lineup at this point because the potential free-agent market for hitters is weak.

"There will be more work to do this offseason," Cherington said. "Hopefully we've done a lot of things to get a jumpstart on the offseason ... These are now the most-important 54 games of our season because we've got a lot to find out. We've got new players that have to get comfortable with Boston and the ballpark. We've got young players. We've got to start building a team again. A team that can win."

Part of that team won't include Lester, at least for now.

"He's an Oakland A right now. I don't think it's right for me to talk about that other than to say, looking back, we certainly had a desire to engage on a contract conversation with him," Cherington said. "That conversation just didn't happen enough, for whatever reason. As we got deeper into the season, he made it clear that that was something he didn't want to focus on. And we honored that. (We knew) if the team's performance didn't improve, that meant teams were going to start calling on him. We both knew about that possibility coming into this week. It was a combination of the team's performance and his desire not to focus on his contract. Which we respect."

Dealing him wasn't easy. "I knew the more the math built against us, the more possibility we'd have to face some of this, and tough decisions, with people that have meant a lot to the Red Sox," he said. "I've known Jon for a long time. It's not easy. It's not easy for him. Everyone is trying make something better. Underneath it all, people understand it."

Maybe, but his ultimate fate will go a long way in determining the fate of both Cherington and the Red Sox.

"The performance of the team is ultimately my responsibility," he said more than once. The team's performance on the field, he said, "is the reason why we're in this situation."

In the past week, the Red Sox have moved seven major-league players. Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Lester, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes, and, drum roll please, Stephen Drew.

The notable newcomers:

New-Red-Sox-Cards

(Related: Here They Are - Meet the New Red Sox)

Drew makes his long-awaited return to Fenway Park Friday night when the Yankees come to town. Should the Fenway masses cheer or boo? There's no word yet if the Yankees plan to bring No. 7 out of retirement (sorry, Mick) in Drew's honor or move Derek Jeter over to second-base to allow Drew to play short.

"The Yankee thing wasn't an issue there," Cherington said on the Drew for Kelly Johnson trade. Finally, perhaps, Red Sox fans can feel some sense of payback for the Danny Cater-Sparky Lyle deal (even if Johnson can't pitch.)

The Red Sox no longer have a pitcher on their roster who won a game in the 2013 World Series. They've dealt 80 percent of their 2014 Opening Day rotation. Unfortunately, they didn't make it 100 percent and Clay Buchholz is now their ace.

In this case, aces are worth 1 instead of 11.

"That is not something we would have expected to do at the beginning of the season, trading four-fifths of the rotation," Cherington said. "Each trade was done for different reasons and different circumstances. The two trades that were made today - in (John) Lackey and Lester - were difficult to do, but we feel fit into our desire to be as good as we can as quickly as we can. With that said. we recognize that we will need to do some work with our starting rotation. We hope and expect that many of the answers can come from guys that are here. But I would expect we would be involved with starting pitching this winter."

Cherington reiterated that there was little to celebrate on this day. "This speaks to where we are as a team. There's nothing celebratory about this. These moves were made because collectively as an organization we haven't performed well enough."

And, as Cherington said, "I take full responsibility for that."

During much of last season, it was written here and elsewhere that Cherington didn't get enough credit for that team's success.

Thursday, he made it clear that the blame for 2014 was squarely on him. Even better, he actually did something about it. It won't be possible to fully judge what happened on Thursday because the Red Sox have made it clear that they will be adding additional front-line starting pitching after someone else wins the World Series.

If one of those pitchers who arrives this winter happens to be Lester, Cherington will over take Bill Belichick's role as New England's reigning sports genius.

Cherington, a New Hampshire native and Amherst grad, somehow managed to avoid profanity when assessing the epic fail that has been 2014. "This year has been challenging, frustrating, disappointing, hard to explain at times," he said. "I take responsibility for where we are. The whole year has been challenging. We've got to get better. We know that."

For better or worse, it's Cherington's team now.

That's something most Red Sox fans can live with.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit up Bill on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
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. Thanks always for reading.

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