MLB: World Series-Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers

Boston Red Sox owners John Henry, left, and Tom Werner celebrate with the Commissioner’s Trophy after the Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 World Series last October. Things have changed dramatically in 12 months as the team has missed the playoffs, fired its general manager and announced that it will slash payroll for next season.

IF YOU didn’t hear the news, the Red Sox instantly turned into a small-market team on Friday.

OK, not Oakland and Tampa Bay small market, but smaller than where they’ve been.

Then they went out and punctuated the lousy year after and suffered their sixth loss of the season to the woeful Orioles – on the same night the small-market A’s and Rays clinched their postseason berths.

Small-market team? OK, that’s a stretch, but the comments made by owners John Henry and Tom Werner certainly let the world know the franchise cannot win for less than having the highest payroll in baseball.

Oh, nothing will come cheaper at Fenway. It’s just that a payroll of $240 million is way too much and there is scheduled to be money coming off the books with expiring contracts, which still leaves the team above the $208 million luxury-tax threshold it’s trying to reach.

“This (coming) year we need to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax),” Henry said. “That was something we’ve known for more than a year now.”

While outside calculations have the Sox already approaching $220 million for 2020, Henry disagrees, saying the club is at a lower figure. Regardless – how does this make you feel when it comes to keeping players like Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez?

The Red Sox will pay a combined $79 million to Chris Sale, David Price and Nate Eovaldi next season. In 2019, those three pitchers combined to go 15-17. That’s where you start – and you get the feeling ownership isn’t happy to be shelling out all that money on three pitchers – even though Henry openly talked about getting Sale signed to avoid another Jon Lester situation.

Henry, speaking publicly for the first time since the Dave Dombrowski firing, said, “We can talk about what he did wrong, but I prefer to talk about what he did right. He was, as I said earlier, I think the right person at the right time. Right after the World Series, I think it became clear to me that perhaps we weren’t going to be on the same wavelength going forward. But I was hopeful throughout the year that maybe that perception would change. It didn’t.”

Now, the search for a new organization leader continues. No, I don’t think it will be Cubs President Theo Epstein. A Jed Hoyer return has been brought up – Hoyer going from No. 2 with the Cubbies to No. 1 in Boston. From within? Doubtful.

“This is a tough job. This is a tough offseason, too,” Henry said. “We talked about the challenges for the CBT, but I think we would all agree, this is a challenging offseason. So, to put one of the (internal) candidates in charge and responsible for that, that’s sort of a tough way to start your career as a general manager. So, we are starting the search looking outward.”

The fan interest starts with Betts and Martinez, two guys who figure to total over $60 million in 2020. You can see where we’re going with the math here, right?

And what do you read about having Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Rodriguez on new year’s ticket info?

More Sox

To be the best you have to beat the best, and the Red Sox went 5-14 against the Yankees and 7-12 against the Rays. Boston was 21-36 against the five teams in the AL playoffs. …

Betts told WEEI’s Rob Bradford he considered a Sox extension offer in 2016, saying, “That was a really emotional time because I was like, ‘Mom, we’ve never seen this amount of money.’ She was like, ‘OK, cool. It’s a lot of money. I think we know it’s a lot of money. So let’s focus on the facts. Let’s focus on what is real and we took the emotions out of it.’ The first one was definitely the hardest (not to accept).” …

Normally, a season-ending game between two teams out of the running is an effort to get everyone you into the game. But Sunday, Rodriguez goes for his 20th win, and while wins have been downgraded by the new baseball math, 20 wins is 20 wins. …

Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen, who cut his front office teeth under Dombrowski, was puzzled by the firing, telling Ken Rosenthal of The Athletics, “The optics are certainly difficult to wrap your arms around, I guess. It’s a very tough job. It’s a meat grinder, from all angles.” Hazen recently got an extension from the Diamondbacks. …

The Athletic ran a piece on the defensive MVP of each MLB team, and Betts getting the nod for the Sox. Yes, over Jackie Bradley Jr. The piece read, “Betts didn’t have quite the season he did in 2018, but his defensive work remains among the best in the game in right field. Betts has 15 defensive runs saved. Keep in mind when he doesn’t play, it’s a major drop-off. J.D. Martinez cost the team six runs in only 211 innings with his right field defense.”

From @SoxNotes early last week: “J.D. Martinez has recorded 35+ HR and 100+ RBI for a third consecutive season and is currently batting .303. He would become only the 20th player ever to hit .300+ with 35+ HR and 100+ RBI in 3 consecutive seasons (most recent: Albert Pujols, 2008-10). Through Friday night, Martinez was batting .305.

Shuffling off

OK, the Patriots, who Sunday will try to make it 4-0 at what has been a most-friendly place for them to play – Buffalo. It’s a loud place to play, but that hasn’t stopped the Pats. However, Devin McCourty says, “Yeah, I mean, the atmosphere is awesome. I think as an away team, if you like that type of atmosphere where everybody’s against you, you know it’s going to be just you and your guys there for three hours trying to get a win. When you can get a win in that environment, I think it builds great character. It bonds a team together, but it’s going to be tough. We know how hard it is. …

We can all be thankful that this is the final season of baseball’s ridiculous expanded September rosters. Next season it goes to 26 all year, and just two more for the final month. …

For some reason, presidential candidate Andrew Yang figured he had to weigh in on Pats QB Tom Brady, saying, “One underrated reason why the Patriots do so well – the AFC East is consistently terrible.” But NFL commentator King Brycen answered on Twitter, noting, “Hey there! Tom Brady win % vs: AFCE: 79%; AFCN: 81%; AFCS: 79%; AFCW: 65%. NFCE: 81%; NFCN: 85%; NFCS: 75%; NFCW: 67%. Vs. NFC: 76%; Vs. AFC: 77%. in Super Bowls: 67%; Playoffs: 75% — (I hope you use much more sound logic if you ever get elected President).” …

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he expects all of his players to be ready for the start of training camp. From NBCSBoston’s Chris Forsberg: “Brad Stevens says that everyone should be ready to go when camp opens, then searches for wood to knock on. ‘Stevens said (Jayson) Tatum‘s ankle is “fine,” Kemba (Walker has) been there “almost every day” since the FIBA World Championships, and Romeo Langford has “been fine for about a month.”…

Youngsters taking over? Last weekend 20 NFL quarterbacks were under 25. Oh, and Brady was 42. …

The Washington Mystics host the Connecticut Sun on Sunday in the opener of a best-of-five- WNBA championship series. The Mystics are coached by former Sun coach Mike Thibault. …

A tip of the cap to legendary Reds radio voice Marty Brennaman, who called his final game Thursday – and kudos to the MLB Network for simulcasting his radio broadcast on TV. …

Kyrie Irving is already making news in New York, saying his poor attitude in Boston last year can be connected to the October death of his grandfather. “After he passed, basketball was the last thing on my mind,” Irving said. “A lot of basketball and the joy I had from it was sucked away from me. There was a facial expression that I carried around with me throughout the year. Didn’t allow anyone to get close to me in that instance, and it really bothered me. I didn’t take the necessary steps to get counseling or get therapy or anything to deal with someone that close to me dying. I’ve never dealt with anything like that. So, for me, I responded in ways that are uncharacteristic.” He admitted, “I failed those guys.”…

After D.J. LeMahieu hit the 100-RBI mark Friday night, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, whose team has had 30 different players on the IL, called his player, “One of the few constants we’ve had all year.” …

Our thoughts are with Canadiens great Guy Lafleur, who had quadruple bypass surgery this week and is expected to make a full recovery. …

It was a long time coming, but Mets reliever Paul Sewald finally got his first major league win the other night — after 14 career losses. …

Irving ripped the Warriors for bringing Kevin Durant back too soon in the playoffs, saying, “We all know K was not ready to play in that environment. We all know that, whether people want to admit it or not. He was out 31 days, and we put him on a national stage in The Finals to end up selling a product that came before the person Kevin.” …

It wasn’t the epic chicken and beer of 2011, but Indians manager Terry Francona just managed another fold-a-roo in Cleveland. …

The NHL opens its season this week and it says here the Bruins will not have any hangover from losing Game 7 of the Final at TD Garden last spring. …

The Mets’ Pete Alonso tied Aaron Judge‘s rookie home run record of 52 Friday night, Judge saying, “No better person to share it with.” …

NHL general managers, in an anonymous poll taken by The Athletic, ranked Tuukka Rask in the second tier of NHL goalies, behind only three: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky. Rask was No.5 on the list (also behind Ben Bishop), with one GM saying, “He didn’t have an off night in the playoffs.” …

From Bleacher Report on Pedro Martinez: “I asked to be traded to the Yankees three times before I got to Boston. I was always in trade talks for three straight years. I was the last one left on rotation and when I was asked where I wanted to be, at that exact moment Yankees were taking off, I wanted to be somewhere I could win.” …

Patriots coach Bill Belichick on new backup quarterback Cody Kessler: “He has some experience. He’s a young player. We’ll see how it goes.”

TD Garden has gone to all dark gray seats. The Bruins’ Brad Marchand said, “It’s a lot harder to see pucks when they go up in the air. It’s very easy to lose pucks in the dark seats (background).” …

From Yahoo Sports on scouts’ evaluations of Brady before the 2000 NFL draft: “I don’t like him,” an NFC national scout said a few weeks before the draft. “Smart guy. That’s it.”

More? “He had that great bowl game but I think he’s just very common,” said the Midwest scout for an NFC team. “He’s a bony, very thin kind of guy. God, you can see his ribs on his build. His arm is just adequate.” However, one personnel guy said, “Outstanding leader. Priest-like personality. Calm, wise and thoughtful. He’s accepting of what comes his way. Doesn’t appear to be dynamic. Has a calming demeanor. Well-liked, class kid. Has work ethic. Respected by his teammates. Two supportive parents who attend every game.” …

I don’t know how it’s going to work out, but this whole Tacko Fall thing with the Celtics is fascinating. Imagine if the 7-foot-6 rookie can give Stevens 10-12 minutes a game as a giant body inside. …

The run didn’t matter, but Xander Bogaerts drove in his 100th run of the season in the ninth inning Friday night. From the postgame notes: “Became the 4th Red Sox to record 500+ RBI before turning 27 years old...He joins Bobby Doerr (621), Jim Rice (583), and Ted Williams (514).” …

More TD Garden: The pro shop has been moved back to the first floor and has expanded as part of the property renovation. …

NESN analyst Jerry Remy on Devers: “He hits the ball as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen.” …

Despite the positive reports on his Achilles rehab, the Nets are not expecting Durant to play this season. …

Finally, Belichick was asked Friday if there is any significance in the Bills being 11-5 in one-score games since 2017. “Very much, yeah,” he said. “They’re very fundamentally sound. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They don’t beat themselves, play good defense, play good in the red area on both sides of the ball, especially red area defense, which this year they’re playing very well offensively in the red area, which has made a big difference for them. They have a good kicker. They have a good kicking game. That always pays off. They’re a good situational team.” …

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.