Friday's contest was only half over, but there was no salvaging what would turn into a 12-2 blowout loss to the White Sox.
So when the bottom of the fifth inning started, Francona sent no fewer than seven substitutions on to the field, his team down, 12-1, at the time.
"I'll probably get a fine for holding up the game," quipped Francona. "It seemed to make sense. We've got a day game [Saturday]. We had a late night [of travel]. Take advantage of having the guys here."
The Red Sox used 21 players, the most since Sept. 30, 2007, when Francona deployed 22 players in a game that meant nothing in the standings.
It was Boston's second most lopsided loss of the season, topped only by a 13-0 defeat at Tampa Bay on April 30.
How did it all go so wrong after the high of taking two out of three from the Rays at Tropicana Field, not to mention winning 12 of their previous 16 games?
Quite simply, Paul Byrd didn't have it, and the White Sox let him know it with one rocket after another.
"It was totally unacceptable for me," said Byrd. "I shoulder the blame. I dropped the ball here, and we'll see if I can't get it going my next time."
The same 38-year-old righty who pitched six shutout innings in his return to the Major Leagues five days earlier got shellacked in start No. 2.
"Quite a difference, huh? It is tough," said Byrd. "I was hoping to give our team a much better performance tonight. I don't want to put this team in that situation. I want us to be in the game when I'm on the mound."
Byrd lasted 2 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and seven runs, walking none and striking out three. Byrd actually pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, but from there, it went so very wrong on a night the Rangers clipped Boston's Wild Card lead to two games.
"It didn't look like he was real crisp," Francona said. "I think sometimes you see it in Spring Training, maybe the third or fourth start, and this is his third or fourth start [including Minor League rehab], there were balls all over the field. Some weren't hit hard, a lot were hit hard. It was one of those nights where everything they did went right and not a lot went right for us."
Mark Kotsay, who started the season with the Red Sox, opened the floodgates against his former team with a two-run homer with nobody out in the second. Kotsay had three hits and three runs on the night. The White Sox scored five in the third and another five in the fourth.
Junichi Tazawa, called on to stop the bleeding after Byrd's exit, was the victim of yet more damage from Chicago's lively offense. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up seven hits and five runs over 3 2/3 innings.
"He got kind of stuck in like a buzzsaw," Francona said. "We needed him to give us some innings. Once they start hitting, he needs to stay out there and pitch. He knew that and it's just a tough night. We got caught in one of those nights where everything they did was good."
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez was Boston's only defensive starter who stayed in the game in the bottom of the fifth. Designated hitter David Ortiz also stayed in there while Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek all came out.
Rocco Baldelli wound up hitting for Ortiz in the ninth.
It was just one of those nights the Red Sox will push aside.
"I think everything went their way today," said Martinez. "They put a lot of good swings on the ball. There were a lot of bloopers, too. They still count. We just look to come back tomorrow and turn the page and play another game and we're going to keep playing our game."
Byrd isn't the type of player to dwell on one bad outing.
"I really just feel like it's one of those nights," Byrd said. "I think this is something to just put behind me. I've pitched long enough that I know what I do well, and I know when I don't do that. I've just got ready to go back out there and establish the fastball in and mix pitches and do what I've done for a long time."
He looks forward to getting another chance, though he's not sure yet when that will be.
"I'm taking this whole thing a day at a time," said Byrd. "I want another shot to get out there and start. I'm foaming at the mouth to get back out there and be the pitcher that I am."
Offensively, while it was still a competitive game, the Red Sox weren't able to establish much against veteran Freddy Garcia, who allowed seven hits and one run over six innings, walking one and striking out five.
"He was mixing all his pitches and keeping us off balance," said Martinez. "When he did throw his fastball, it was located pretty good. I think that was about it."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.