FORT MYERS — The unofficial itinerary for the Boston Red Sox on the first day of spring training on Wednesday:
The clubhouse opens before dawn, the players dress by 9:15 a.m., the first workout commences at 10 a.m. and the sky falls shortly thereafter.
Or something like that.
For historical purposes, it’s possible this seeming apocalypse began months earlier. Maybe when owner John Henry announced in September that the team was going to reduce payroll for 2020. Maybe when the Red Sox were accused in November of using video to steal signs during their 2018 World Series season. Maybe when manager Alex Cora was fired in January or when superstar Mookie Betts was traded in February.
The precise date isn’t so important when it seems the world has it in for you.
“It is what it is,’’ catcher Christian Vazquez said Wednesday.
Existentialism aside, Red Sox Nation is not accustomed to this state of being. It’s one thing for a season to eventually go off the rails, but it’s quite another to blow up the tracks before opening day.
So bon voyage, Chaim Bloom.
The longtime Rays front office executive stepped into one of the most enviable jobs in baseball at one of the worst moments in franchise history. Even before he presided over a single game as the Red Sox general manager, Bloom was tasked with getting the payroll below baseball’s tax threshold and was forced to fire a manager who won a World Series 15 months earlier.
On his first day in Fort Myers?
He completed the messy and complicated week-long trade of Betts.
His second day?
He hired Ron Roenicke as interim manager.
His third day?
He might well have been hiding under his desk.
These are not normal times, and this is no ordinary franchise. The Curse of the Bambino has given way to the Burden of the Hub. After going 86 years without winning a World Series, Boston won four in the next 15 years. The bar was re-set and excuses were no longer tolerated.
As Boston Globe baseball columnist Pete Abraham described the down-the-road nature of the Betts trade:
“If it doesn’t work … Bloom will be the poor fool who traded Mookie Betts.’’
Of course, there are other ways of viewing this offseason in Boston. First of all, the Red Sox are still projected to have the fifth-highest payroll in baseball. Also, Betts is due to be a free agent in November and by trading him the Red Sox may be in a better position to sign him long-term because they will no longer be subject to the highest luxury tax, which could conceivably save them tens of millions on a deal of that size.
And, finally, there is this:
So you had to trade Betts and David Price. You poor, poor babies.
Here in Tampa Bay, we know how you feel. We traded David Price once, too. But that was back in 2014 when he wasn’t dead weight.
The Rays have also traded James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, Jeremy Hellickson, Nathan Eovaldi, Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee. And those are just the pitchers. There’s also Evan Longoria, Wilson Ramos, Corey Dickerson. Logan Forsythe and Mallex Smith.
In other words, it’s all relative.
“I don’t pay attention to the background noise anymore. You can’t worry about it, you can’t think about it because there’s nothing you can do about it,’’ said catcher Kevin Plawecki. “It’s been a little different offseason, but we’re here now and we’re excited.
Yes, they are here but things aren’t quite normal. For one thing, Roenicke is still getting adjusted to his new job after two years as the bench coach. He showed up at his locker on Wednesday only to discover his belongings had been moved to the manager’s office overnight.
And then there was the kid named Jeter walking into the room. Jeter Downs, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Betts deal, was named after the Hall of Fame shortstop from New York that Boston fans love to loathe.
Downs, who went to high school in Miami Gardens, was recently at a traffic light in south Florida when a Range Rover pulled up next to him. When he realized it was Derek Jeter, he began waving wildly at his idol. Downs, 21, later called former Yankee Raul Ibanez, whom he had been working out with, to tell him the story.
“I called Raul and I was like, 'Tell Jeter that the kid who was waving at him was Jeter,’ ’’ Downs said. “A couple of days later the Marlins had an event at Top Golf and one of my friends was there and he Face Timed me with Jeter on the phone and we talked for two minutes.’’
It was a lighthearted moment in a camp that could use some levity. As easy-going and affable as Roenicke might be, he recognizes there will be hard times ahead.
“I know I’m going to get tough questions all year, I understand that,’’ Roenicke said. “But I really enjoy challenges and the experiences make it way easier to get through the challenges. Going back to when I was (a manager) in Milwaukee and going through the Ryan Braun (performance-enhancing drug) suspension, that was a half-year of answering questions about it just about every single day.’’
So, Ron, do you think MLB will impose a harsh punishment on the Red Sox after the cheating investigation is completed?
“I don’t want to comment on any of that.’’
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.