The Red Sox have got their man. John Farrell will make his return to Boston in 2013, attempting to fix the mess that the team became under Bobby Valentine.
The thing is, as much as Farrell will seem to many like the big get thanks to how this whole compensation saga has puffed up his apparent importance, that's not what he is. The Sox had some really interesting candidates lined up in the likes of Tony Pena and Brad Ausmus, each of who probably should generate more out-and-out excitement than John Farrell. The difference is that Farrell has done this before, however unsuccessfully, and knows the front office, the environment, and the veterans. The other guys would have been risks, ones who could rise higher than Farrell, or implode dramatically. Farrell has neither the high ceiling, nor the low floor.
Instead, John Farrell is the safe choice. He is unlikely to shock and amaze. No, having him back (especially as the manager) will not magically fix Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, or Daniel Bard. He can't make it the aughts again, complete with warm and fuzzy post-World Series feelings. Those times won't come back until the team is fixed from a roster perspective, and Ben Cherington has a lot of work to do there.
In fact, based on the evidence Farrell will likely have some troubles here. He's had difficulties in Toronto between his oft-criticized pen management and some questioning from Omar Vizquel over laxness in the clubhouse. Hopefully he's learned from these mistakes, but better to never have made them in the first place.
Either way, he will not be a Bobby Valentine level disaster, and that's what's really important. A manager can typically only effect his team a very little one way or another based on decisions made in the dugout and clubhouse. It's only when his behavior and gaffes cause the team to collapse inward on itself as the Sox did in 2012 under Valentine that the trouble really starts. If Farrell can avoid that (and there's little reason to think he can't), then it will be a big step towards bringing this team out of the mire.
If there's something to be truly happy about, it's how the front office handled the situation. The Sox went into this with their hand seemingly revealed; they wanted Farrell, and the Blue Jays knew it. If the Sox had ended up dumping even a semi-significant prospect for him when viable options existed in the open market it would have been a bad sign of lessons not learned. Instead, the Sox sent off just Mike Aviles, who had played his way out of a job thanks to his free-swinging ways. Hardly a significant loss by any real measurement.
Likely in terms of actual value this was not a deal for the ages. The Sox got a pretty typical MLB manager and surrendered a pretty typical bench player. It's not a momentous occasion to kick off their rebuilding campaign, but it lays the first solid brick in the foundation both in terms of the talent acquired, and how the team went about the process. A job well done.