They don't tolerate losers in Boston, the adage goes, and Dave Dombrowski - the venerated executive who'd previously transformed the moribund Marlins into a World Series champion before turning the comparably destitute Tigers into a juggernaut - knew this when he took over as Red Sox president of baseball operations in the summer of 2015.
That winter, unfazed - or perhaps galvanized - by Boston's fifth-place finish the season prior, Dombrowski sent four prospects to San Diego for closer Craig Kimbrel and then signed David Price to a record-breaking $217-million contract. The Red Sox won the division in 2016.
That winter, in a bid to propel his club past the American League Division Series, Dombrowski sent four prospects - including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech - to the White Sox for Chris Sale. Boston won the division again in 2017.
The following offseason, after watching his club fail to reach the American League Championship Series for the second successive year, Dombrowski signed J.D. Martinez to a five-year contract. The Red Sox proceeded to win the AL East for a third straight year before bludgeoning their way to the World Series title.
Dombrowski did the damn thing. His singular focus had delivered a championship to Boston.
That success, it turns out, cost him his future.
On Sunday night, the Red Sox - mired in third place in their division and all but guaranteed, at 76-67, to miss the postseason - fired Dombrowski. Assistant general manager Eddie Romero will take over in the interim, and a search for the permanent replacement will begin immediately, the club announced Monday morning.
To an extent, Dombrowski's unceremonious exit can be attributed to the same organizing principle that got him hired: the "what have you done for me lately" ethos that governs Boston sports. After all, the Red Sox won't make the playoffs following one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history, and that in itself is often grounds for dismissal. Again, Dombrowski was aware of that.
"This is a tough market. It's been known as that," he said last month. "Growing up in this game, I was always told there are three markets that are different than everywhere else: Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. And I’d have to say it's probably lived up to be true."
As true as it may be, though, the failures of 2019 are just a pretext. Dombrowski didn't get fired because the Red Sox couldn't keep up with this season's impossibly (and inexplicably) good New York Yankees team. Rather, he got fired because the success of yesteryear cost too much - in dollars and prospect capital - and saddled ownership with a future that's far from bleak but also far from cost-effective. The World Series champagne in Dombrowski's eyes made it hard for him to see that the roster-construction methods he employed to build that juggernaut had become untenable.
Thanks to the extensions handed out this past winter to Sale, Xander Bogaerts, and Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox - who will incur luxury-tax penalties for a second straight year - already have more than $159 million committed toward next season's payroll before accounting for arbitration raises to Mookie Betts, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Jackie Bradley Jr., among others.
None of those extensions were unsound outside of perhaps the Eovaldi deal. Bogaerts is unquestionably one of the game's top shortstops and Sale had finished top five in American League Cy Young voting for six straight seasons. It also wouldn't have been unreasonable in years past for the Red Sox to carry an astronomical payroll. The game has changed, though.
In today's MLB, it doesn't matter that Boston still has a good chance of contending for a World Series title in 2020, or that the team has managed to hang around the fringe of the wild-card race this year despite the mediocrity of its starting rotation. It doesn't matter that the Red Sox can still afford to sign Betts, a free agent after next season, to an extension worth more than the $330 million that Bryce Harper received from the Philadelphia Phillies. It doesn't matter that the Red Sox are, ultimately, fine.
Of greater concern to ownership is that it has $147 million tied up between Price and Eovaldi over the next three seasons, with another $145 million owed to Sale through 2025, and that Dombrowski is responsible for each of those contracts. Those are roster spots that can't just be handed off to players earning the league minimum sometime down the road, and the Red Sox don't have prospects worthy of them, anyway. (Prior to this year's draft, FanGraphs pegged Boston's farm system as the worst in the majors.) Dombrowski is responsible for that, too.
As such, the team's performance this season be damned, it increasingly seemed that Dombrowski was an anachronism. He spent money freely. He traded prospects without trepidation. He acted, in essence, like a big-market general manager should. All of that got him a World Series title.
Then, it got him fired.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.