It’s about time for the Boston Red Sox to change course and reset their goals for the 2012 Major League Baseball season.

Boston, which has struggled all season to consistently play well, has now found a way to consistently play badly instead. Over the weekend, Boston lost three of four games to its most bitter rival, the New York Yankees, and in the process slipped further out of the American League East race.

Boston is now 43-43, tied for fourth place with the Toronto Blue Jays in the division, and 9 1/2 games back of the Yankees, who are in first place.

It was just one year ago Red Sox fans were relishing a surging baseball team in Boston that was gaining a stranglehold on the division lead and playing like the team with the second-highest payroll in baseball.

Then September 2011 came and the team that many prognosticators dubbed “the best team ever assembled” sustained the worst collapse in all of baseball, missing the playoffs in the process.

That forced changes within the clubhouse as the Red Sox fired manager Terry Francona, who had led the team to two World Series titles, and General Manager Theo Epstein bolted for the Chicago Cubs.

Cue Bobby Valentine’s arrival. After being out of the game at the Major League level for 10 years, the Red Sox hired the at-times-volatile manager who led the New York Mets to the World Series in 2000. Red Sox Nation had high hopes that as a manager, Valentine could change the developing apathetic culture in Boston.

So much for that idea. The team got off to a slow start and it became big news in New England when it finally reached the .500 level. Valentine called out then-Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis and questioned his desire to still play. A few days later, Valentine backtracked and “clarified” his comments after defacto captain Dustin Pedroia publicly criticized Valentine and said that wasn’t the way Boston did things.

Valentine has had problems getting a handle on the club since the first few weeks of spring training. The management quickly handcuffed him when he yelled at a player on the field for poor fundamentals. That prompted a sit-down between ownership and Valentine, where he was told that managers in Boston didn’t embarrass players in front of their teammates. It got worse as former Red Sox pitcher and current ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling reported several players didn’t like Valentine.

Regardless of whether players like him or not, Valentine was brought in to do a job a certain way. Francona was criticized for being too nice to the players. Valentine has been criticized for being too harsh.

Adding insult to injury, Valentine has been forced to cobble together a team of young players, which at times gives the appearance that the Red Sox are nothing more than a AAA team.

Injuries to four-time All-Star Carl Crawford and to starting center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury have forced the Red Sox to call up unproven players and rely on lesser talent. That does not make it easy to win in a division that boasts the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as a surging Baltimore Orioles club.

This season has seen some pleasant surprises with the emergence of Will Middlebrooks, but that success, too, caused a stir. The Red Sox already had a third baseman in Youkilis, who had been a star with Boston since late 2004. Youkilis got hurt, Middlebrooks came in and then came the dilemma: What do the Red Sox do when Youkilis returns? The solution: Rotate positions and have Youkilis play first base instead of Adrian Gonzalez, move Gonzalez to right field, have David Ortiz as designated hitter, and keep Middlebrooks at third.

This experiment didn’t last long, as the Red Sox recently traded Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Not long after the trade, Boston took another blow as Middlebrooks hurt his hamstring and the team placed Pedroia on the 15-day disabled list.

The Red Sox are hoping that Ellsbury and Crawford, who both rehabbed with the Portland Sea Dogs last week, are close to returning. But even that is marked with confusion as Crawford told Boston newspapers that his doctors told him he might need elbow surgery, which would end his season and affect next season depending on when and if he chooses to have the surgery.

Crawford’s potential decision makes us wonder if he is trying to pull one over on the Red Sox. After all, the team isn’t playing well, evidenced with this weekend’s disaster, and Crawford was the victim of Valentine’s harsh criticism last year when the current Sox manager was a baseball announcer with ESPN.

Regardless of Crawford’s reasons for mentioning surgery now, the Red Sox appear to be a sinking ship heading toward the bottom of the division with no life preservers on board.

No one knows the answers to the problems that ail this Boston team, but star pitchers such as Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have under-performed all season. Pedroia’s and Gonzalez’ numbers are well below average and this team is quickly becoming an official mess.

Fans have seen the losing results. Something has got to give and we feel that someone needs to allow Valentine to do what he needs to do to motivate this team. He doesn’t have anything to lose, as he is fighting for his job. Either a harsh approach works and he turns the team around, or it doesn’t and the team continues to play poorly. If it turns around, then he stays and the fans are happy. If it continues to play poorly, then so be it. At least an attempt was made to try something different instead of accepting the current course.

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Today’s editorial was written by Sports Editor Al Edwards representing the majority opinion of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at [email protected].