Red Sox owners to team: Be like Tom Brady, Patriots

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Here's how long John Henry and Tom Werner have owned the Boston Red Sox: When their $695 million bid to buy the team was approved on Dec. 20, 2001, the New England Patriots had not yet won a Super Bowl.

Yeah, it's been a while.

And with Henry and Werner recently celebrating their 15th anniversary as Red Sox principal owner and chairman, respectively, they thought it might be appropriate to use the Patriots as inspiration in their annual spring-training address to the team Friday before the first full-squad workout at JetBlue Park.

"There was a lot to be proud of [last year] -- the team had the best offense in all of baseball; we had a Cy Young winner and two MVP candidates; the team played beautifully all season -- but obviously all of us were disappointed at the abrupt ending," Werner said, referring to an American League Division Series sweep by the Cleveland Indians. "We made a reference to Tom Brady and the Patriots and what we can take from that -- a lot of hard work and practice -- and we wished them good luck."

Under the stewardship of Henry and Werner, the Red Sox have done their share of winning, with eight postseason appearances and World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and 2013. But they also have gone six of the past seven seasons without winning a playoff game and ridden the roller coaster of finishing last, first, last, last and first in the American League East since 2012.

It raises the question of how Red Sox ownership defines success, especially when the Belichick-Brady Patriots have raised the standard for every franchise across professional sports with their dynastic 15-year run.

"For me, we want every September and October to be meaningful," Henry said. "We can't always win a ring. That's obviously what every player and every executive in baseball is shooting for. But from my perspective, a season is a success if you're playing meaningful games in September and October."

Henry and Werner appear to still be committed to giving the Red Sox the resources to achieve that goal.

The Sox will have among the highest payrolls in baseball, even though Henry directed president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to stay below $195 million to avoid exceeding the luxury tax threshold for a third consecutive year. And ownership green-lighted the December trade for ace lefty Chris Sale, which meant sending top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the Chicago White Sox but didn't require parting with a big-league player.

"I think if I [told] you, 'Chris Sale is on the market,' you'd say, 'Well, what young player of the Red Sox who's in the major leagues would have to be traded for him?'" Werner said. "We did keep the core of our team together."

After 15 years, Henry and Werner insist the plan is to stay together, too. Former general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona are long gone, and longtime team president Larry Lucchino stepped down after the 2015 season. Werner said Friday that he and Henry know their ownership of the team "is not going to be forever."

Neither claims to have any plans to step away, either. They talked about continuing to make improvements to Fenway Park and finding a future role in the organization for retired franchise icon David Ortiz. As much as ever, Henry and Werner appear to be looking forward.

"I think when I say 'forever,' we hope to be healthy and focused for a long, long time," Werner said. "Hopefully we'll be having these conversations in 10-15 years."

After all, the Patriots can't be the only team in town that keeps piling up the championships.

"We really are focused on that fourth ring as much as we were focused on the first," Henry said. "Anything short of that I think we would say is a limited success."