Chaim Bloom, chief baseball officer for the Boston Red Sox, says of his talks with Alex Cora, “Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional.” Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Alex Cora has paid his dues. He served his one-year suspension for his role in the Houston Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal and is ready to manage again.

That opinion might not be universally held, but it’s the opinion of the one person which matters most: Chaim Bloom. The Boston Red Sox chief baseball officer named Cora the manager Friday, and the team will re-introduce Cora in a Zoom press conference on Tuesday.

The Red Sox decided Cora is the right man to right a ship that listed badly in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Without Cora, Boston finished in last place with a .400 winning percentage, their lowest in 55 years.

Would Cora have changed that? Probably not. The team lacked talent on the field, not leadership in the dugout. Ron Roenicke did an outstanding job keeping a struggling team engaged despite all the obstacles they had to deal with.

Roenicke wanted to keep the job, but never really had a chance. His team didn’t perform well, and first-year baseball boss Bloom wanted to bring in his own manager.

The only question was whether or not Cora was Bloom’s guy. That was the issue hovering over the process in the past few weeks. Now, it’s clear he is.

It’s also clear that this job was not just Cora’s for the taking. Bloom interviewed others for the job (he described them as “the brightest managerial prospects in the game today”) and did his due diligence with all candidates – including Cora.

Cora checks off a lot of boxes for the Red Sox – he has a great relationship with the team’s owners, fans, and, most importantly, the players. Yet Bloom wanted to know more about Cora’s actions in 2017 and how he felt about the scandal.

“Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional,” Bloom said in the team’s statement announcing Cora’s return. “Alex knows that what he did was wrong, and he regrets it.”

Cora will have to address those emotions when he speaks publicly for the first time since being rehired by the Red Sox. The issue will hover over him as he begins the job – this offseason, at spring training, and every time the Sox face a new team and Cora faces a new batch of reporters.

The Red Sox know this, but feel that is a small price to pay to bring back the manager who led the team to a franchise-record 108 wins and a championship in 2018. He is a manager who has a close relationship with his players and will be expected to bring the best back out of players such as Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Christian Vazquez.

He’s also a manager who accepts the heavy use of analytics in game-planning. That is a must in the Bloom-led Sox front office. Yet Cora has a unique way of getting his players to buy into those analytics-based decisions.

In the 2018 ALCS, Cora sat Brock Holt the day after Holt became the first player in playoff history to hit for the cycle. He sat first baseman Mitch Moreland in favor of the hot-hitting Steve Pearce, traditionally a platoon player. Pearce rewarded him with a World Series MVP performance. Moreland, off the bench, delivered the biggest at-bat of the playoffs when he hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run to trigger an epic comeback in Game 4 at Los Angeles.

Cora used starters as relievers throughout the playoffs, getting key performances from Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello out of the bullpen. It was Sale – not closer Craig Kimbrel – who closed out the championship-clinching game at Dodger Stadium.

“Boston is where I have always wanted to be,” said Cora in the team’s announcement, “and I could not be more excited to help the Red Sox achieve our ultimate goal of winning in October.”

Banished from baseball for a season, Cora has had time to think about what he will do when he returns to the dugout. Now he’ll get a chance to put those thoughts into action. And after a dismal 2020 season, Red Sox fans are ready for a little action from their team.

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

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