BOSTON -- When Jonny Gomes arrived at spring training for his first day of work with the Boston Red Sox, he walked into the clubhouse in Fort Myers, Fla., and announced the team was one day closer to a World Series parade.
That moment came to fruition Saturday morning as the newly crowned World Series champion Red Sox boarded the duck boats for their rolling rally around the city. Before the parade, Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted he's already been busy working on plans for the offseason, while also reflecting on the 2013 season.
"The one thing I'm taking out of this, a little bit of a damper, is that unfortunately the group that we've shared so much with might not ever be together again," Farrell said.
When the Red Sox begin camp in February, there will have been changes to the club's roster and possibly to the coaching staff. On Saturday, as the duck boats navigated the streets of Boston and the chilly waters of the Charles River, the players came to the realization that this could be the last time they're together as a group.
"We knew that, too," Gomes said. "I knew early this was a championship-caliber team, I truly did. But being a realist, I know that this team possibly can't be together next year. A lot of pieces could be gone, a couple of pieces could come back, but it just won't be this group we built in early spring. The time was now, and we got it done now."
On Friday, the Red Sox exercised their $13 million option on left-handed pitcher Jon Lester for the 2014 season. But center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Mike Napoli and shortstop Stephen Drew will all hit the free-agent market.
Plus, there are younger players on this team and in the organization who will be vying for jobs in 2014. Some, including Xander Bogaerts have already shown they can play on the biggest stage.
When general manager Ben Cherington turned the page on the disastrous 2012 season, once Farrell was in place as manager and the offseason signings started, the potential of this team began to take shape.
That shape culminated Wednesday with a World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals and ended Saturday with duck boats rolling through the streets of Boston.
"We certainly didn't script this last October, but so much credit to Ben Cherington," Farrell said. "All the guys he brought in here fit like a glove -- no pun intended. The returning players were eager and determined to do something different and rewrite their stories, and the new players came in and meshed in perfectly.
"We had to deal with a lot along the way. From the outside, it might've looked like this was a completely smoothed sailed year, but we turned to our fourth reliever [Koji Uehara] to be our closer, Clay Buchholz missed half the year when he was probably on his way to a Cy Young year, and some injuries along the way.
"The one thing that sticks out in my mind is the fact we never lost more than three games in a row is really pretty remarkable, and that speaks to everyone."
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was a rookie in the 2007 season when the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, but he admitted before Saturday's parade that this year's team is different.
"Just the way we won, the way the team responded to every bit of adversity all year, and it was a ton of different guys," Pedroia said. "I'm proud of everybody. It's awesome. This is a tight group. We're like a family. Everybody was pulling for each other so much, and we've believed in each other from day one. When everyone picked us to finish last in the division, we felt like we could win the World Series. That's what makes everything so special for us."
If Red Sox veteran DH and World Series MVP David Ortiz gets his wish, the entire 2013 team will be back for a chance to repeat as champions.
"Hopefully together next year again," he said. "I mean, who knows? We play well together, why not come back and be together next year, why not?"
Under gorgeous blue skies and a bright fall sun, the duck boats returned to Fenway Park at approximately 1:30 Saturday afternoon. The players appeared tired. The official celebration is complete, and 2014 will bring another new season for the Red Sox.