Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington begins second roster overhaul

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For the second time in 22 months, Ben Cherington must find a way to turn a last place team into a winner — and fast.

Boston isn’t a patient place. Long, gradual improvements don’t go over well for a fan base which has enjoyed three world championships in the last 10 years and pays some of the highest ticket prices in the game.

Rebuilding? That’s for other teams in other cities.

In Boston, the turnaround has to be on-the-fly, with little time elapsing before an also-ran becomes a title contender again.

After the disastrous 2012 season, when the Sox finished with their worst record since the mid-1960s, Cherington took an aggressive approach to off-season.

He re-invested the massive financial savings that came out of the mega-deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers into solid major league free agents in their prime.

The plan worked like a charm then, as the Red Sox improbably went from last to first by winning the World Series in 2013.

On Thursday, Cherington began his second overhaul in much the same way.

He shipped out Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, John Lackey, Andrew Miller and Stephen Drew, but instead of accumulating a host of prospects, mostly focused on obtaining proven, established players in return.

Throughout, Cherington was guided by one principle: “To be as good as we can, as quickly as we can.”

In the off-season that followed 2012, the Sox targeted the likes of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, David Ross, Ryan Dempster, Gomes and Drew.

He wasn’t interested in stockpiling more potential and waiting to see if the talent evaluations were on-target.

It was the same approach on Thursday. He didn’t look for the best high-ceiling, low-cost prospect from the A’s in dealing Lester and Gomes. Instead, he received a 28-year-old power-hitting outfielder, who himself is under control only through the end of next season.

And when he shipped out Lackey to the Cardinals, owners of one of the best and deepest farm systems, he didn’t hold out for blue-chippers Oscar Tavares or Carlos Martinez or Stephen Piscotty. He opted for Allen Craig, 30, and Joe Kelly, 26, both part of the Cardinals team that faced the Sox in the World Series last October.

Why? Because Cherington was in a hurry.

The Red Sox aren’t the Rays, whose best return for ace David Price was an 18-year-old shortstop at Single A. No, the Red Sox intend to try to win next year.

Potential? The Sox already have plenty of that, especially starting pitching (Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Henry Owens, Brandon Workman) and left-side infield help (Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero).

No, what they wanted was a short-cut. The two biggest trades that Cherington pulled off were old-fashioned baseball trades.

You have pitching? We need hitting.

You need hitting? We have pitching.

And so, deals were born, though they weren’t easy to execute.

“Prospect deals are typically easier to pull off,” said Cherington. “Most of the time, you’re getting calls from contenders and it’s tough to get proven major leaguers from contenders because it doesn’t typically make sense to give up proven major leaguers if you’re contenders.

“But I think the quality of our guys (being shopped) and the fact that they’re playoff tested and recently playoff-tested. As far as the return, time will tell. We’re happy with what we did. We think it fits with what we’re trying to do, which is to focus on major league or near-ready major league talent.

But as painful as it was to get to this point, we really wanted to see if we could take advantage of the unfortunate circumstances and make it into something better.”

There’s more to do, of course. Either by packaging some of their own prospects or by signing free agents, the Red Sox need more established starting depth this winter. It would be foolish to head into next season with the fragile Clay Buchholz and the still improving Kelly as their own experienced starters.

But this much is clear: the club’s offense is vastly improved over the last 24 hours and so is its own inventory of young pitching.

There’s no guarantee that they can execute another quick turnaround. But they determined Thursday that there was only one way to try: to do what worked when they were faced with the same challenge two years earlier.

Manny Machado to face another team that doesn’t like him very much

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Brewers fans booed the living heck out of Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado during the NLCS. They had reason to, of course, as Machado turned in a couple of pretty dirty plays. To Machado’s credit, he embraced the role of heel pretty well by grabbing his crotch in the crowd’s general direction in Game 7. I can’t say I want my kid doing that, but (a) Machado is not my kid; and (b) If you’re gonna be the bad guy anyway, you may as well own it, so thank you Manny. You provided us with some entertainment.

You might think that the ill-will toward Machado is over now, but that may not be the case. Because if you remember back to April and May of last year, there was a good bit of it between Machado and the Red Sox.

In a series between the Orioles and the Red Sox in late April 2017, Machado slid hard into Dustin Pedroia, injuring him. Despite the fact that Machado seemed genuinely concerned about Pedroia, suggesting no ill-intent — and despite the fact that Pedroia seemed OK with the play — Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes threw at Machado’s head later in the series in retaliation, earning a suspension.

Fast forward a week, when the teams met again, and Chris Sale — the World Series Game 1 starter — threw behind Machado, resulting in a warning being issued. Machado would later homer in the game, which one thinks would help bring some resolution to all of that, but after the game was over Sale’s pitch was still sticking in his craw.

As was the F-word. A lot of F-words were in Machado’s craw too:

That ended up being the end of all of that, but one wonders if Machado still harbors some ill will. Or if Barnes does. Or if Sale does. My guess is that even if they do harbor some ill will, or if Machado harbors ill will toward them, everyone will keep a lid on it because this is the freakin’ World Series and no one wants to hurt their team over a more than year-old beef.

But I bet the Fenway Faithful let Machado hear it. Keep a camera on Machado, Fox.