Dave Dombrowski was hired by the Boston Red Sox in to go “all in” and make moves to create a championship team. He did just that, and got to ride in a duck boat parade last fall after the team won the 2018 World Series. AP Photo/Steven Senne

For the Boston Red Sox, the future is now.

That became evident in the wee hours of Monday morning when news broke that the team was parting ways with President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.

The news itself was not shocking. Boston had the game’s highest payroll and is on the way to missing the postseason for the first time in four years. What was surprising was the timing. Why do it in the middle of the night, in the middle of a four-game series with the New York Yankees?

We eventually may find out what brought this all to a head. What we do know is the move is the beginning of the construction of the team for 2020 – and beyond. The organization is about to embark on an extraordinarily difficult journey, trying to retool a roster that was so disappointing this season in hopes of fielding a competitive team in years to come.

Dombrowski cast his lot with the group of players who won 108 games and a World Series last year. His loyalty to that group ultimately cost him his job. Re-signing players such as Eduardo Nunez, Steve Pearce, Nathan Eovaldi and even Chris Sale kept Boston’s payroll at the top of the charts even as the Red Sox sank in the standings.

While a significant amount of payroll will be coming off the books after this season, it will take a significant amount of money to bring back players who are arbitration eligible. There isn’t much flexibility on the roster as presently constructed.

The Red Sox need to make difficult decisions in the months ahead. There’s a strong likelihood that the team will have to lose key pieces of the current roster while bolstering the sagging pitching staff and propping up the farm system. Team ownership decided Dombrowski was not the man for the job.

“Four years ago, we were faced with a critical decision about the direction of the franchise,” principal owner John Henry said in a statement issued by the team. “We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave in to lead baseball operations. With a World Series Championship and three consecutive American League East titles, he has cemented what was already a Hall of Fame career.”

“Dave will hold a special place in franchise history as a key architect of one of the greatest Red Sox teams ever assembled,” team chairman Tom Werner said in the statement. “His willingness to make bold moves helped deliver our fourth World Series Championship in the 21st century.”

The team begins its search for the architect of what former General Manager Ben Cherington once called “the next great Red Sox team.” The team’s current baseball operations group – assistant GMs Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran and Zack Scott, along with Senior Vice President Raquel Ferreira – will oversee the department in the interim. All four have been with the organization longer than Dombrowski and go back to a time when drafting and developing players were the focus.

That focus changed under Dombrowski, who was brought in to go “all in” and make moves to create a championship team. He did exactly what he was asked to do, constructing a team that won three straight division titles and set a franchise record with 108 wins during the 2018 championship season.

The challenge facing the Red Sox now is different. They are at a crossroads and must find a course that allows them to extend a window of opportunity. They will not become the Baltimore Orioles and blow up the roster. There is too much talent here. But it’s no longer as simple as trading for a couple of key pieces to add to the fold. There must be addition and subtraction if the equation is to work.

It would be wrong for anyone to kick Dombrowski on his way out the door. It was simply time for a different voice.

Cases like this remind me of the Boston Celtics at the start of the Larry Bird Era. Bill Fitch was brought in to coach the team, and took a 27-win team to 61 victories in 1979-80. It was the biggest one-year improvement in NBA history. A year later the Celtics won the NBA championship. Two years after that, Fitch was out. His taskmaster style no longer fit the team, and a much more laid back K.C. Jones took over and led the Celtics to two more championships.

Fitch was one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. That didn’t change when he parted ways with the Celtics.

Dave Dombrowski will someday be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He added to his legendary career in Boston. Yet it is time for a change. And the Red Sox didn’t waste any time making the move.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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