Sox GM Cherington Works Around the Clock

Boston — Early on in his news conference Thursday evening — which put the wraps on a busy day of wheeling and dealing — Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, “We haven’t slept much the last three or four days, you can probably tell.”

You certainly could.

Cherington wore his professional, stone-faced demeanor, but this time the face looked drawn and tired. It was to be expected after Thursday’s whirlwind of activity in which Cherington and his “group” had reshaped close to one-third of his baseball team’s roster, including the dealing of pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey and Andrew Miller, outfielder Jonny Gomes and infielder Stephen Drew and the acquisition of outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, pitcher Joe Kelly and third baseman Kelly Johnson.

Usually a polished public speaker, Cherington was off his game Thursday. In his opening statement, which lasted 1 minute, 46 seconds, Cherington uttered 12 “ahs” and 14 “ums.”

Not only did he need sleep, he was also emotionally drained. He hinted at that when he mentioned “the two trades that were made today in Lackey and Lester were difficult.” He meant that in every sense of the word.

Only one season removed from a World Series triumph, and here was the Red Sox GM blowing up the team. How these moves will be remembered is still to be determined. Cherington said it best. “As far as the return is concerned, time will tell,” he said.

But scouts at Pawtucket, R.I., attending the Pawtucket Red Sox game were more direct.

“Can you believe who the Sox got?” asked one.

Another quipped, “no wonder we were not in (the dealing) at the end.”

Every scout we spoke to gave Cherington a thumbs-up for his work.

Cherington was quick to share the credit.

“I’m proud of the group that I work with. It is a group that literally worked around the clock for about four or five days to try to do this,” he said. “I’m proud of how hard they worked. They were prepared and ready and they had everything we needed to give ourselves a chance to make decisions.”

When the Lebanon High graduate was asked where this deadline work ranked with the challenges he has faced on the job, he expanded the question. “This whole year has been challenging,” he responded after a short pause. “Use any word that you want. Frustrating, disappointing, hard to explain at times and certainly, as I said before, I take responsibility for where we are, so I think, the year, not the last two days, the whole year has been challenging.

“We have to get better and we know that.”

Cherington grew up in Meriden as a Red Sox fan, so he takes it a personal challenge to give the Red Sox Nation a competitive team to cheer for. “We had to find a way to take advantage of the unfortunate position we’re in and try to kick start building the next team,” he said emphatically.

The first deal announced was the transaction that sent Lester and Gomes to Oakland for Cespedes and a future pick. Then Lackey went to St. Louis for Craig and Joe Kelly. In less than a week, four-fifths of the opening-day starting rotation had been dealt, following earlier trades in which Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront were shipped out of Boston.

“Deals for Lester and Lackey, those obviously require a lot of time, a lot of hours and consumed most of our time for at least the last couple of days,” said Cherington.

“We had a bunch of teams in on Miller, and we kept them warm early in the day.”

Eventually, Miller was sent to Baltimore for prospect Eduardo Rodriguez and finally Drew went to the Yankees.

“We’re building toward a very good team as quickly as possible,” said Cherington after the dust had settled. “We were happy with what we did. We think it fits with what we were trying to do, which was acquire major league or near major league-ready talent in return.

“I think we are in a better position than we were a week ago, but certainly not done.”

Most importantly, Cherington tossed out a challenge to his players — new and old — that the team would be holding open auditions for the rest of the season to be a part of what he has often referred to as the next great Red Sox team.

“These are now the most important 54 games of our season, because we’ve got a lot to find out,” he said. “We have new players that we want to make sure are comfortable and get acclimated to Boston, and comfortable at the ballpark and everything that comes along with Boston. We’ve got young players that are still developing and need to continue to improve and develop, we need to focus on that.

“We need to start building a team again. So a lot of the names that are on this roster will more than likely be on the roster next April, so we’ve got to start building a team that can win. So I think these next 54 games are really important toward that, but of course, there will be more work to do this offseason.”