For starters, it means that the Red Sox will maintain a degree of stability in their front office as two of their hardest workers over the last several seasons will take charge of the baseball operations department.
"Both are experienced members of our front office," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. "Ben is going into his eighth year with the Boston Red Sox. Jed is going into his fifth year with the Boston Red Sox. We are enormously proud of the work that they have done already in their career. They have been major contributors in a variety of different areas to the success of this club and to the success of the club on the field in particular. So it is with an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction that we announce to you that the co-GMs of the Boston Red Sox going forward will be Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington."
With such a setup, there remains the possibility that Epstein will re-emerge as either a consultant or the head of the baseball operations department, albeit in a title different than the one he vacated on Halloween.
"I think that it's fairest to say that we've made a big step forward going today and we'll see what happens in the future," said Lucchino. "Certainly Theo is a good friend of all of us up here. He's worked very closely with all of these guys in the past. I would say that the door's been really ajar for some time. Until Theo goes to work for another baseball organization, we'll keep a light on in the window for the possibility of him coming back and helping us in this new structure."
Lucchino was asked how long he envisioned the current setup lasting.
"This is the arrangement we are going forward with for 2006," he said. "Will there be other changes or possible additions? I think that's always possible. My job, our job, is to put the best front office we can together so that we have the team on the field we can have."
Of course, inquiries at the press conference immediately began flooding in about how the responsibilities will be delegated between Cherington and Hoyer.
In short, both men will continue focusing on many of the same areas they worked on under Epstein, only with increased say in the ultimate decisions.
Hoyer will mainly be in charge of Major League transactions and contracts while Cherington, the team's director of player development for the last three seasons, will be the point man on Minor League matters, particularly player development and scouting.
The two men, both New Hampshire natives, are close friends and working associates, and seemed to be comfortable with the new -- if somewhat unorthodox -- arrangement.
"I think it's actually a pretty natural division," said Hoyer, 32. "I've been working mostly on Major League transactions and contracts the last three years. Ben's been working on player development, so I think we're obviously going to have some overlap but we think it's a pretty natural division. Me working on Major League transactions for the most part, professional scouting, Ben working on player development and amateur scouting."
While the general public can't help but note how a similar setup failed in Baltimore -- Jim Beattie was recently removed from what amounted to co-GM duties with Mike Flanagan -- there are clear differences in this case.
For starters, Flanagan and Beattie had never worked together until they joined forces in Baltimore. And, at least on the surface, their roles were never as clearly defined as the outline Lucchino has provided for Hoyer and Cherington.
"One of the reasons that this is going to work with Jed and me is that, not only do we complement each other well as far as our strengths, but we have an incredible relationship built on trust and that's going to allow this partnership to work," said the 31-year-old Cherington, who has overseen a vastly improved Red Sox farm system the last three years.
Lucchino, as has been his pattern in some previous GM searches, methodically explored the external market before opting to go the internal market. Beattie, Nationals GM Jim Bowden, White Sox director of player development Dave Wilder and Mariners executive (and former Dodgers GM) Dan Evans had all been interviewed for the position. Several other candidates took themselves out of the running, including Dayton Moore (Braves), Tony LeCava (Blue Jays) and Chris Antonetti (Indians).
Ultimately, Lucchino opted for the direction that should provide a less jarring transition for the team as it works through the rest of the winter, and into 2006.
"We spent a fair bit of time talking to these external candidates, many of whom have been identified for you, some of whom were not," Lucchino said. "But the second stage of the process began recently; I would say a week or two ago, when we began to explore internal possibilities and an internal restructuring. And as a result of that process, John Henry, Tom Werner, and I are proud to be able to say that we have, in our own organization, the people with the talent, and the intellect, and the drive and the ambition to do this job and we think to do it very, very well."
Hoyer actually began with the Red Sox as an intern the day the new ownership group took control of the club in 2002. Soon thereafter, Epstein (at the time, the team's assistant general manager) took him under his wing, and the two developed a close, working relationship the last few years. He is best known for accompanying Epstein to the home of Curt Schilling back in Thanksgiving, 2003, when they lured the big right-hander to Boston.
An obvious self starter, Hoyer looks forward to his increased responsibilities going forward.
"I can just say that I have a ton of loyalty to the Red Sox and I'm going to continue to have that," Hoyer said. "I always have the Red Sox' best interest in mind."
Meanwhile, Cherington will see to it that the farm system continues its impressive rise, and he looks forward to tackling some broader issues.
"In a traditional setup with one GM, it's always a little overplayed that that person makes all the decisions in a vacuum," Cherington said. "There's always more than one person involved in a decision. Ownership is involved, people in baseball operations are involved. Just because now the position is split for the time being, Jed and I have a relationship where we can rely on each other. We'll serve as a system of checks and balances on one another to a degree, but we'll still use all of those people we mentioned, ownership and baseball operations, to make those decisions."
Hoyer and Cherington, along with Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley, had been part of a committee that had been running the front office since Epstein's departure.
The Red Sox hope that Lajoie, the architect of the brilliant 1984 Tigers' World Series championship team and Shipley, a rising baseball executive, will stay on board.
The 71-year-old Lajoie served as the point man last week, when the Red Sox dealt catcher Doug Mirabelli to San Diego for second baseman Mark Loretta and then shipped Edgar Renteria to the Braves for top prospect Andy Marte.
Shipley was said to be a driving force in the Thanksgiving blockbuster that brought Josh Beckett to Boston.
"Both Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley have done a phenomenal job for us over the years, and in particular, in this last five weeks where they have jumped in with both feet and have provided real guidance and leadership," Lucchino said. "They have great relationships with [Cherington and Hoyer], and I'm hopeful that they'll continue on in the organization working in this new setup. They have major, major things to contribute and have contributed those things in the last several weeks."
One issue that seemed to be of great interest at the press conference was the hypothetical of what happens when Cherington and Hoyer disagree on an issue. How would the matter be settled?
Perhaps the answer is healthy and spirited debate.
"We kind of like the notion of disagreement, of people speaking candidly and firmly about their position and doing some battling," Lucchino said. "That's a good thing in our view in the process. At the end of the day, there needs to be some resolution, and, ideally, the baseball operations department will be able to do that themselves. These guys each have a primary area of responsibility. If they can't, that's what John and Tom and I are for also, for the resolution of difficult decisions."
One difficult decision was at last made, as the Red Sox appointed a pair of men to run their baseball operations department.