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For the first time in a full season since 2015, the Boston Red Sox -- who were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday night -- appear ticketed for last place in the AL East. It was a pretty weird season in Boston.

It's actually been a pretty weird ride for the Red Sox the last five seasons, given the variation. Let's take a look:

  • 2018: 108 wins -- most in franchise history -- and World Series championship
  • 2019: Missed playoffs, traded Mookie Betts in the ensuing offseason
  • 2020: Last in AL East and, well, it was 2020
  • 2021: Beat Yankees in Wild Card Game, toppled No. 1 seed Rays in ALDS, had 2-1 lead in ALCS and were six outs away from a 3-1 lead before blowing Game 4 and losing Games 5 and 6 vs. the Astros

As for this season, the Red Sox started 10-19 and looked every bit a non-contender. But then they kicked things into gear and looked the part of a serious threat in the American League. Fast-forward through a win on June 26 in Cleveland and the Red Sox were 42-31, which was the third-best AL record behind the Yankees and Astros

Of course, the Red Sox have been one of the worst teams in the league since (30-49). They went 10-19 then 32-12 and then 30-49 and will likely finish the 2022 campaign on the wrong side of .500.

What went wrong

There were certainly issues on the offensive side, at times, but this mostly a pitching thing. Red Sox pitchers collectively have posted an ERA over five since the All-Star break and, on the whole, rank toward the bottom of the league in most pitching categories while they've generally had a good offense. They are fourth in the AL in runs but 13th in ERA . 

Some of this could be blamed on injuries. Chris Sale only made two starts. Nathan Eovaldi has made 18. Neither Michael Wacha nor Rich Hill will make 30 starts. Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock ended up bouncing between the rotation, bullpen and injured list. Yes, the bullpen had its share of injuries, too. 

Everyone has injuries, though, so the problems the Red Sox had only magnified the lack of organizational depth at the big-league level and upper levels of the minors. The Rays, for example, deal with lots of pitcher injuries and just plug guys in, seemingly off an assembly line. 

Red Sox president Chaim Bloom came from the Rays and the goal continues to appear to be building a development machine like the Rays while having mega-market resources to fill out the big-league roster. Look at the Dodgers taking Andrew Friedman from Tampa Bay and how they operate now for the blueprint. 

This was the third season under Bloom, so the building continues. Meanwhile, the big-league roster is at a crossroads. 

Big offseason ahead

Are we looking at the last remnants of the 2018 championship core? J.D. Martinez hits free agency this winter. Xander Bogaerts is likely to opt out of the rest of his deal and hit free agency. Rafael Devers only has one arbitration year left before hitting free agency and if the Red Sox are going to do a bit of house cleaning in a reload, maybe he'll be traded in similar fashion to Betts? 

Others to land in free agency after this season: Eovaldi, Hill, Wacha, Enrique Hernández, Matt Strahm and maybe Tommy Pham ($6 million mutual option). 

The biggest item on the offseason checklist is what to do with Devers. It feels like they'll either extend him to a monster deal and make him the face of the franchise moving forward or else look to deal him. Reports during this season indicated the Red Sox were offering him extensions in the ballpark of $200 million while he was seeking far more. Sounds like the Betts situation, right? 

Past Devers, the most pressing matter has to be rounding out the pitching staff. Sale will be back, as will Nick Pivetta. Whitlock and Houck will have important roles. How much will they want to lean on the likes of Kutter Crawford, Brayan Bello, Connor Seabold and Josh Winckowski? Would it make sense to bring back Hill and/or Wacha? Wacha is 30 and had a career renaissance this season, so it seems like a no-brainer. 

On the position-player end, two of the biggest prospects (second baseman Nick Yorke and shortstop Marcelo Mayer) still haven't seen Double-A. Jarren Duran and Triston Casas have gotten MLB experience this season, though, and they figure heavily in plans for 2023. Among veterans, Trevor Story is locked up long term and Alex Verdugo will still only be 27 years old. It has the makings of a nucleus. Plus, they don't have to send Devers away and they could make a run at keeping Bogaerts. 

Herein lies the conundrum, no? 

There's enough core here that an argument could be made for Bloom to beef up and go for a run in 2023. He wouldn't have to sacrifice the future to do so. The Red Sox essentially print money and they don't have a ton of big-ticket financial commitments long-term (it's only Story in eight figures past 2025, Story and Eric Hosmer in 2025 and Story, Hosmer and Sale in 2024). 

Of course, given the lackluster performance with this club other than a stretch in May and June (they were 28-9 in there and pretty bad otherwise), an argument could be made to mostly strip this down and start looking to 2024. There's where a Devers deal would come into play. 

Either way, the Red Sox will be one of the major players this coming offseason, whether it's via heavy adds or via offloading a young superstar. 

We shouldn't expect a half-measure from a guy like Bloom in a market like Boston. He will commit to one side or the other. We know one thing for sure: It won't be boring.