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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Updated: February 20, 8:43 AM ET
New Sox journey begins Thursday

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox have won three World Series in John Henry's 12 seasons as owner, more than any other team during that span.

Notwithstanding that already-lofty accomplishment, the goal remains the same as the Red Sox kick off Year 13 of the Henry era, though last season's worst-to-first fairy tale is going to be tough to top.

"This is an ever-changing challenge," Henry said Wednesday, the day before the team's first full-squad spring training workout. "It's incredibly difficult. You have 30 teams that are doing everything they can every year, on and off the field, to try to win. So, for us to win a fourth championship would be the cornerstones of the careers of everyone involved here, who have been involved in these three [championships]."

John Farrell
Red Sox manager John Farrell said of 2013: "The outcome was incredible but the journey along the way is something we can't ever overlook."

Through trials and tribulations, success and the lack thereof, Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino and the baseball operations staff have learned what works (bringing in clutch players high in character) and what doesn't (Bobby V and bloated contracts) in trying to put a winning team on the field.

"We have a certain philosophy that is a valid philosophy," Henry said. "It doesn't matter what resources we can bring to the table, you still have to have 25 guys, and another 25 behind them coaching, general manager, manager. We have to be fortunate to have the right team in place, so I feel very fortunate."

Henry and the Red Sox have tried winning many different ways, with mixed results. They acquired big names and paid even bigger price tags in loading up before the 2011 season, but between the chicken-and-beer collapse and Bobby V flameout a year later, they quickly learned that approach was flawed. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they got a do-over in the form of a blockbuster deal with the Dodgers.

"I don't see us going back to where we were," Henry said in regard to paying top dollar to lock up top talent to long-term contracts. "I feel we were fortunate to do those deals [with the Dodgers]. That was fortunate."

A year later, the flexibility gained from that Dodgers deal allowed the Sox to bring in lower-priced, quality players like Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and David Ross. We know how that worked out.

But the past is the past, and 2014 brings another blank slate.

Prior to Thursday's first official full-squad workout, ownership and management will address the team and outline expectations for the upcoming season.

"You get one first day with them and it's important to emphasize the core things that we value and the things that we brought to life last year," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Bottom line is to skip no steps along the way and that's the first-day message." Red Sox veteran DH David Ortiz, who is the only player on all three Series-winning teams, has been known to speak to teammates during spring training to keep them in line, but he is confident this spring that everyone's already on the same page. "Our goal this year is to try to win another World Series," Ortiz said. "We executed well last year and it's time to turn the page and build up again this year. If we can repeat, it's hard to do, but it can happen."

There are a few additions to the roster this season, including catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but the core remains the same. The message from the start of spring training last season is the same this year: Compete hard, play hard and be consistent. Even though the Red Sox are defending world champions, they also know it'll be an uphill battle to repeat. No team has done it since 2000.

"Regardless of the outcome, they're still the same people and they're driven by their own pride and motivation, and collectively they're not going to let anyone think it's going to automatically happen," Farrell said. "The beauty of it all is they recognize that there was a lot of work that went into last year. Yeah, the outcome was incredible but the journey along the way is something we can't ever overlook, or ever underestimate the work that's going to go into that. [Thursday] is taking us back to square one."

As he was a year ago, Farrell is confident in this group of players.

"There's very strong character that was formed last year and we were relentless in everything we set out to do," Farrell said.

As Henry was walking around the offices and hallways at Fenway Park recently, pictures from last October's World Series celebrations were already hanging on the walls, along with others from 2004 and 2007.

He wants more.

"We've already turned the page, but winning a fourth one, in our minds, is going to be just as difficult as winning the first one was," Henry said.