By hiring Bobby Valentine to manage the Boston Red Sox, the team’s ownership made one thing clear — it wants to win now.

Valentine’s hiring may also signal a change to the way the Red Sox front office will work.

But fans don’t care who is running the front office, be it Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington or Bill James. They want a team on the field that can win — and cares about winning.

In light of the team’s September collapse after a season of such high hopes because of the assembled talent, the Red Sox couldn’t afford to bring in an inexperienced manager who would be learning on the job and might not be able to get the players’ attention.

The five candidates Cherington brought in seemed to have decent credentials but, except for Gene Lamont, had little major league managing experience.

Lamont would have been a solid choice. That goes for Dale Sveum, too.

But Red Sox ownership apparently wanted more of a sure thing. Not that Bobby Valentine has won any championships on U.S. soil, but he has won a lot of games.

This is a team with a starting rotation that begins with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The lineup includes Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez.

There is talent to win.

WHO IS IN CHARGE in Boston?

Ultimately, of course, it’s owner John Henry, and then the team’s president, Lucchino. It has always been that way, but there was less Lucchino interference in Theo Epstein’s later years as general manager.

When Cherington’s five finalists were swept away and Valentine was hired, after being initially contacted by Lucchino, it certainly seemed to point to Lucchino taking charge.

At Thursday’s press conference, Cherington insisted the decision to hire Valentine was his, although he also called it a “collaborative process.”

Lucchino usually gets involved. That’s his right as team president. It is when there is a blurring of the lines between president and general manager that there is usually trouble.

Remember when Epstein was first hired? Lucchino was often in the spotlight. When trade negotiations with Texas for Alex Rodriguez were taking a downturn, it was Lucchino who announced the deal was dead, not Epstein.

Lucchino’s interference in matters eventually led to Epstein briefly resigning after the 2005 season.

In a minor deal, Portland Sea Dogs followers got a look into the front office dysfunction that offseason. In November 2005, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats announced they were going to play the Sea Dogs in an annual game at Fenway Park. An official in the Red Sox business office confirmed the game.

Only the Sea Dogs had never heard of the plan — and Portland is Boston’s Double-A affiliate, not New Hampshire.

Cherington, the director of player development at the time, announced the next day that there would be no Fisher Cats-Sea Dogs game at Fenway.

As a baseball operations guy, Cherington knew it was bad form to go behind your own affiliate’s back and work out a deal with other minor league teams.

The business people and baseball people were not, as they say, on the same page.

When Epstein agreed to return, it was clear that he had won his turf war. Not only was there a clear separation between baseball operations and business, but also noticeably less interference from Lucchino.

Now that Epstein is gone and first-time GM Cherington is in the chair, it seems obvious that Lucchino is back in the spotlight.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.

But if we someday hear of Ben Cherington walking the streets of Boston in a gorilla suit …

WHEN CHERINGTON first visited Hadlock Field in 2003, it was as Boston’s director of player development. He was succeeded in 2006 by Mike Hazen, who spent many nights in Portland.

Now it will be Ben Crockett’s turn. Crockett, Hazen’s assistant the past two years, has succeeded him. Hazen was recently named vice president/assistant general manager under Cherington.

Crockett, 31, pitched collegiately for Harvard. The Red Sox drafted him in the 10th round in 2001 but he returned to school.

The Rockies drafted him in the third round in 2002. He pitched four years of minor league ball for the Rockies, then spent a season in the independent leagues before joining the Red Sox as an intern in 2007.

RON JOHNSON is back managing in the minors, for the Baltimore Orioles’ organization.

Johnson, 55, the Sea Dogs’ manager from 2003-04, was recently fired as the Red Sox first-base coach.

The new Orioles general manager, Dan Duquette, who hired Johnson as a minor league manager with the Red Sox in 2000 when he was Boston’s GM, signed Johnson to manage the Orioles’ Triple-A team in Norfolk, Va.

Norfolk’s first trip to Pawtucket is May 28-31.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases