8 moves that led to Chaim Bloom’s eventual firing from the Red Sox

Red Sox

Bloom closes out his Red Sox tenure with a record 267-262.

Boston Red Sox baseball executive Chaim Bloom watches warmups before a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Friday, April 15, 2022, in Boston. The Red Sox fired Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023,as the team stumbled toward a third last-place finish in four seasons.
Chaim Bloom didn’t make it through the 2023 season with the Red Sox. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

COMMENTARY

The Chaim Bloom era has ended in Boston.

On Thursday, the Red Sox announced that they were moving on from their chief baseball officer, ending an era where hopes of a sustainable, homegrown formula for winning failed to manifest into results in the big leagues.

Bloom closes out his Red Sox tenure with a record 267-262, finishing in last place in two out of his three full seasons at the helm of the franchise.

The 2023 Sox (74-72) are currently in a competitive race with the Yankees … for last place in the division once again.

It wasn’t all bad for Bloom in Boston as he tried to augment the Red Sox’ DNA while remaining competitive in the cutthroat AL East.

The Red Sox made it all the way to the ALCS in 2021. Their farm system has gone from a barren wasteland to the fifth-ranked personnel grouping this summer, according to Baseball America. 

Free-agent signings this past offseason like Masataka Yoshida, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Chris Martin have yielded strong returns.

Some of the knocks against Bloom should be shared by others in Boston’s front office, especially when it comes to fiscal-related mandates that have seen the Red Sox struggle to retain elite talent.

Still, the responsibility (and the blame) does fall on a chief baseball officer to make the most of whatever hand he is dealt. Unfortunately, the returns often fell short.

Here’s a look at some of the moves that played a role in Bloom’s eventual exit from Boston.

1. A lackluster return from Betts 

Let’s get this one out of the way first — because Bloom was never going to win any trade centered around a superstar talent like Mookie Betts.

Bloom was given an unenviable decree early into his tenure with the Red Sox, tasked with shedding a significant amount of payroll in the form of shipping out the team’s homegrown star.

Yes, it never should have reached a point where Betts donned another jersey. That sentiment has been shared time and time again, and has only been further validated by the 30-year-old Betts’ march toward a second MVP trophy in 2023. 

Bloom was handed a raw deal here, but it still falls on the top baseball officer within an organization to maximize the return out of a rotten situation.

But much like the Bruins and GM Mike O’Connell’s lackluster haul after trading star Joe Thornton in 2005, Bloom failed to bring in blue-chip prospects to assuage some of the pain of giving away such a coveted player.

Alex Verdugo is a solid major leaguer, but one that Boston may not want to commit to long-term once he’s due a new contract. His inconsistent play and lapses when it comes to effort have regularly drawn the ire of Alex Cora. 

Catcher Connor Wong has taken a positive step forward this season as Boston’s primary option behind the plate, and is a nice piece moving forward. The other prospect that went to Boston was infielder Jeter Downs, who was DFA’d by Boston last winter and is currently in the Nationals system.

Betts, meanwhile, has won a World Series already in Los Angeles and posted two top-five finishes in MVP voting during his three full seasons on the West Coast.

At least the Bruins freed up the cap space from the Thornton trade to sign Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard the following offseason. The Red Sox have done little to validate the decision to move Betts, both in the short, and now long term.

As Betts continues to shine as one of the faces of baseball, the Red Sox have been left with a few solid pro-ball players, and little in terms of long-term rewards for the franchise-altering move.

2. Standing pat at 2023 deadline

Bloom’s inactivity in late July might have been the move that sealed his fate with the Red Sox.

With Boston sitting just 2.5 games out of an AL Wild Card spot, it felt as though the Sox were poised to finally make a move after building some mid-season momentum. The flaws on the roster were obvious.

“Everyone knows what we need,” Rafael Devers told The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham in July. “Hopefully we can get that in the next few days. We can’t control that as players. All we can do is give 100 percent on the field. But we need pitching.”

Instead, Bloom opted to largely stand pat at the trade deadline. Boston’s lone deal came in the form of acquiring middle infielder Luis Urias. 

“We really like what we’re building, you’ve seen it,” Bloom said shortly after the deadline. “Like I said, it’s not something that we’re asking people to close their eyes and dream on — you’re seeing it more and more each night on the field, the core we’re building, what we’re building towards.

“Understanding that we’re underdogs this year, right now, [with] where we are in the playoff odds, we just tried to stay true to that.”

Since the calendar flipped to August, the Red Sox are 18-23. 

3. A flawed approach to pitching in 2023

The Red Sox’ Achilles’ heel all season long has been their starting pitching, especially when it comes to both injuries and an inability to go deep into games. 

As noted by Julian McWilliams of The Boston GlobeRed Sox starters had pitched just 236⅓ innings since the All-Star break, the second-fewest in the majors.

With multiple starts on the IL, Cora regularly had to turn to his bullpen in order to churn through innings, with his relief corps running on fumes by the dog days of summer.

Rather than invest in innings-eating pitchers during the offseason, Bloom placed plenty of faith in players like Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Chris Sale, and Garrett Whitlock — all talented arms, but marred by concerns over age and especially injuries.

Sure enough, it led to disaster with the 2023 Red Sox.

“If you look around the league, and you look at Toronto, those guys, most of them are going to get 200 innings,” Alex Cora said earlier this week. That’s the difference between this year and 2021. Everybody talks about the magic run in 2021. It wasn’t that magical run. It was just a good team with solid starters that went deep into games. It was 32 starts from [Nate Eovaldi], 31 starts [from Eduardo Rodriguez], and 30 starts from [Nick] Pivetta. Martin Perez and Garrett Richards, they were doing their part, they [each] had 22.

“Then we had Tanner coming in and doing his thing for a while there. So, I think everybody talks about the bullpen, but the first six innings are very important because then you don’t tax the bullpen, and that’s something that we ran into during that 16-game stretch recently. We weren’t going deep enough and we paid the price.”

4. A noncommittal 2022 deadline 

Bloom struggled to set to defined path for the 2022 Red Sox at the trade deadline.

Amid a July that saw Boston go 8-19, a sell-off seemed like the logical option for Boston. They were 53-52, and 17 games behind the AL-East-leading Yankees. Still, they sat just two games back for the final AL Wild Card spot.

Ultimately Bloom chose several half-measures at the deadline, deciding to both buy and sell — while opting to not lean hard one way or the other in two very different paths.

He shipped Christian Vazquez to the Astros for OF Wilyer Abreu and INF Enmanuel Valdez, a forward-thinking move for a team stuck in neutral.

Getting Reese McGuire for LHP Jake Diekman was also an impressive swap. But was adding an outfielder like Tommy Pham really going to move the needle for a team that still ended up in last place?

The Vazquez deal made sense for a team going nowhere, but one could make the argument that Bloom should have recoupled even more assets for pending free agents like J.D. Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi— especially given that Boston ultimately let them walk later winter.

Beyond recouping assets and prospects by accelerating their firesale, Bloom’s unwillingness to commit to a larger teardown gave Boston the rare distinction of being a last-place team that also exceeded the luxury tax threshold.

Not only was Boston’s ownership hit with a higher tax penalty, but Boston received lower compensation draft picks after Eovaldi and Xander Bogaerts signed elsewhere last winter as a result of their luxury-tax standing. Boston also lost international bonus money that is utilized to bolster the farm system.

Had Boston moved another contract or two at the deadline, they would have finished the year below the fiscal threshold and avoided these penalties. 

You can absolve Bloom for things like the Betts trade, which was a ruling from higher up on the food chain. 

But a lack of conviction in terms of setting a course for a rudderless franchise might have been the deciding factor that led to his undoing. 

5. The Xander Bogaerts saga

No, the Red Sox shouldn’t have matched the 11-year, $280 million contract that the Padres handed a 30-year-old Bogaerts back in December.

And yes, some of the blame for Bloom’s inability to retain Bogarts does fall on the higher-ups within the organization.

Still, it never should have gone to a point where Bogaerts — the de-facto leader of Boston’s clubhouse — was free to hit free agency, especially given Boston’s multiple chances to bridge the gap on a reworked deal in the years prior.

Even if the Red Sox were in the right to walk away from Bogaerts at this stage of his career, Bloom’s contingency plan at shortstop led to disaster.

Rather than pursue other top-flight free agents at short like Dansby Swanson, Bloom opted to slot Trevor Story back over to short and roll with a carousel of options at second this season.

It was poor luck that Story subsequently underwent major elbow surgery in January. But with no options in place, Kiké Hernandez was forced to take over at short in was a disastrous defensive tenure at the position.

On numerous occasions over the last few years, Cora and the Red Sox have been hampered by a lack of depth at critical areas of the roster, especially defensively.

Remember Bobby Dalbec’s brief time at shortstop earlier this year?

6. Signing Trevor Story to a $140 million deal

Bloom wasn’t exactly known for inking massive contracts during his time with Boston.

But he did dole out a six-year, $140 million contract to Trevor Story back in early 2022, with the former All-Star expected to slot in at second base (and eventually take over for Bogaerts at shortstop).

He has yet to live up to his deal. Injuries limited Story to just 94 games in 2022, with the infielder batting .238 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI. The 2023 season has been another lost campaign for Story due to his offseason procedure.

Now back in the lineup, Story has provided plenty of value defensively, but entered Thursday he is batting .188 with two home runs and 10 RBI over 112 at-bats (30 games).

7. Dealing Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. 

Renfroe was a great free-agent signing during the 2020 offseason. One of the top offensive conduits on a 2021 roster that nearly made it to the World Series, Renfroe slugged 31 home runs and drove in 96 RBI with Boston, while only costing $3.1 million.

But Bloom and the Red Sox opted to sell high on Renfroe after his standout season with Boston, acquiring old friend Jackie Bradley Jr. in Dec. 2021 via a deal with the Brewers. Boston also added a pair of prospects in David Hamilton and Alex Binelas.

Despite Bradley’s defensive impact, he only played in 91 games with Boston in 2022, ultimately getting released after hitting .210 over that extended stretch.

8. Trading Andrew Benintendi

The emergence of Josh Winckowski out of the bullpen this season has softened some of the blow from this February 2021 trade.

Boston opted to move Benintendi after his play plateaued with the Red Sox, acquiring Winckowski, Franchy Cordero, OF Freddy Valdez, and P Grant Gambrell.

Benintendi has been inconsistent since leaving the Red Sox, but did take home a Gold Glove Award in 2021 and earned an All-Star nod the following year with the Royals.

Cordero batted .204 over his two seasons with Boston but didn’t make much of an impact, while both Valdez and Gambrell remain in the minors.


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