See you next year, Dustin and Big Papi. So long, Clay and Xander and Mookie and Yoenis. Stay safe and don’t pull a Rajon Rondo just before spring training.

The Red Sox season ends Sunday at Fenway Park against the Yankees in what would be a meaningless game except for the farewells to future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. The rollercoaster ride of the past three years for New England’s favorite team is over for now. It’s been more chills than thrills.

The Red Sox went from chumps to champs to chumps, from last place to glorious World Series winners back to last place. If you’re thinking this extraordinary cycle can continue for one more year, don’t.

Theo Epstein has his hands full building the Chicago Cubs, and he either walked away from this Red Sox ownership group or was pushed out as GM three years ago with manager Terry Francona. This is Ben Cherington’s rebuilding project now.

Cherington didn’t find the right pieces to keep the Red Sox competitive in 2014. How he picks himself back up after this dizzying disappointment will be his test. The Red Sox have to retool. So do the Yankees and, of course, the Tampa Bay Rays, where makeovers happen every season.

Baltimore finally understands what it takes to win consistently, thanks to GM Dan Duquette. His fingerprints were on Boston’s 2004 World Series champions after his time with the Red Sox before new owner John Henry arrived. Toronto may or may not be smarter.

The point? You’ll see this winter if Boston remains the destination stop for free agents.

You’re in love with the young players brought up through the farm system. Being home-schooled can distort potential and expectations. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts and Henry Owens, to name just three, are full of promise. Will they have the same impact as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom?

You’re not sold on John Farrell as manager. The Red Sox left too many runners on base this season, and last week Farrell admitted on sports talk radio that he should have gone to small-ball early in the season. Bunt, steal bases, hit-and-run. Be proactive instead of reactive.

Either Farrell didn’t trust his instincts or took too long to work it out in his mind. The Red Sox got a fine person when they hired Farrell, but good character alone doesn’t make a successful manager when a team stops scoring runs.

Winning the World Series gets Farrell another season after 2014. He’s not the best of Terry Francona, who will forever be cheered in Boston for the World Series wins of 2004 and 2007. He’s not the worst of Joe Kerrigan, the pitching coach who got the manager’s job in 2001 after Jimy Williams was fired.

With Kerrigan filling out the lineup card, the Red Sox went 17-26. When Henry bought the team, Kerrigan was gone. He hasn’t gotten another managing job.

In baseball, September can be the month of false hopes when teams no longer contending for the playoffs bring up prospects to show their stuff. Outfielder Rudy Pemberton was a September call-up in 1996 and was the next Ted Williams, batting .512 with 21 hits in 41 at-bats.

He was out of the major leagues for good the next season, ending his career in Japan.

You want real hope? Rusney Castillo can be the next Manny Ramirez minus the problem-child behavior. The outfielder from Cuba arrived at Fenway just a week or two ago and gave you a peek of his future.

Castillo’s two home runs this past week were majestic, not unlike Manny’s first game at Fenway in April 2001 when his no-doubt-about-it home run seemed to open the afternoon’s blue skies. The cheers sounded like hosannas.

Castillo and Yoenis Cespedes could be the new Manny and David Ortiz.

Who will be the new Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Jon Lester? Who will be the new Jonathan Papelbon or Koji Uehara to close out wins? Are you confident Uehara will regain the mastery over hitters that was so evident last September and October? I’m not.

If the 2013 World Series was the gift no one saw coming, this season was the train wreck no one imagined. Next month, Yawkey Way and Landsdowne Street will be deserted, save for college students heading to their favorite clubs and pubs.

If you close your eyes, you might hear the echoes of the clinching victory over St. Louis in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series and the joyous celebration afterward.

A new season will come soon enough. After the past three, we don’t know what to expect.

 


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