BOSTON -- The start of the second half of the season is supposed to represent a fresh start, but for the Red Sox Friday, even before a pitch had been thrown coming out of the All-Star break, it felt more like a crossroads.
The news that Andrew Bailey has damage to his right labrum and will likely need season-ending shoulder surgery is merely the latest bit of bad news for the Red Sox, coming hard on the heels of the loss of Andrew Miller.
That's two big losses for the Red Sox to absorb in the span of 10 days, leaving sizeable holes in the bullpen, which was already something of a trouble spot.
"It likely makes it more challenging,'' acknowledged general manager Ben Cherington, "but it doesn't change the job.''
Even before the loss of Bailey, the Sox were pursuing additional bullpen help. Bailey's injury, in theory, should intensify that search.
In reality, however, it may not change things much. They still need reinforcements, and in fact, need them more than ever. But the degree to which they're willing to pay hasn't changed.
View it this way: with a strong first-half of 2013 and a return to sanity in the managerial office, the Red Sox have already taken big steps this season. The roster is more likeable, most of the off-season acquisitions have worked out and a handful of the organization's prospects have taken big steps forward -- either in the big leagues or the minors.
There's a foundation in place, to be augmented in the near future by a host of pitching prospects and some intriguing middle-of-the-diamond position players (Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez).
No matter how desperate the Sox might appear, they're not about to sacrifice the inventory of accumulated prospects for short-term gain.
Last winter, when the Sox began their rebuild, they were beseiged by teams seeking their best high-end prospects in exchange for major league-ready help. The Sox wouldn't budge then and they're no more inclined to do so now.
The fact that the Sox opened the second half in first place, with the best record in the American League, could potentially change their approach.
"In the front office, we have an obligation to try to help if we can,'' said Cherington. "We'll try to do that in a way that makes us better but doesn't alter our long-term course. We set out, before this year, to accomplish something this year on the way to something long-term and that's what we're still going to try to do.
"But we're in (contention) so we have to react to that and what's going on today. It's a balance, But the fact we're in it means we have an obligation to try to help.''
Still, the Red Sox primary focus is likely to be internal. The hope is that the assmembly of quality young arms (Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman, specifically) could contribute in relief.
Time, however, is short. The non-waiver deadline is only 12 days away, giving the Sox little time to evaluate the suitability of De La Rosa and Workman working in new roles, under the pressures of a pennant race.
But even if the young pitchers fail to convince the Sox they can help in relief, there's little chance of the front office making an "all-in'' deal at the deadline if it means sacrificing blue chips.
There's one potential complication in this equation: ownership.
The Red Sox have been out of the playoffs the last three years running. They haven't so much as won a single post-season game since the 2008 ALCS, which they lost in seven games to Tampa Bay.
It's not difficult to imagine ownership strongly suggesting that Cherington and Co. direct their attention to getting into the playoffs, and damn the long-term consequences.
Reaching the post-season would help boost ticket sales, advertising, sponsorships and all the things that go into running a successful business.
To date, however, that kind of pressure hasn't been felt.
Said a Red Sox source Friday: "I haven't heard any of that. I think there's some trust (in Baseball Operations) and everyone's on the same page.''
Should the Sox begin to lose ground in the standing in the next week, that could be subject to change. Then again, given how things have gone lately, everything is subject to change.
In the meantime, the Red Sox will evaluate in a hurry, discuss externtal options with deliberation and generally try to find a way to overcome what has befallen them of late.
"Every year, you've got to figure some things out,'' said Cherington, "and this is our time and we're confident we're going to be able to do it.''