Every team in every sport follows the leader. A championship team is emulated by every other team looking to knock them off the top of the mountain.

In baseball, that means trying to follow the Kansas City Royals’ formula. Last month, the Royals won the World Series on the strength of a lock-down bullpen. Kansas City’s bullpen finished the regular season with a 2.72 ERA, the lowest in the American League and second lowest in all of baseball.

It was the bullpen that led the Royals to back-to-back American League pennants, and their first championship in 30 years.

“I think it’s important to continue to keep (our) bullpen strong,” said Royals Manager Ned Yost at last week’s MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee. “I think teams know… that they have to have a two- or three- or four-run lead before the fifth inning, if they want a chance to win that game.”

That’s why Boston wasted no time rebuilding the back end of their bullpen. After trading four prospects for closer Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox traded starter Wade Miley to Seattle in a four-player deal that brought Carson Smith to Boston.

Smith struck out 92 batters in 70 innings for the Mariners last season. He has an unorthodox arm slot and throws a wipeout slider. He allows the Sox to ease up the workload on Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara in 2016. And allows Manager John Farrell to go to the bullpen quicker when his starter is struggling with his stuff or a high pitch count.

“I think our bullpen is going to be able to go in and shut down games,” said Kimbrell at last weekend’s “Christmas at Fenway” event.

Orioles Manager Buck Showalter knows that bullpen construction has become the top offseason priority for many teams.

“It used to be you try to expose the underbelly of the bullpen of those guys that pitch in the fifth and sixth inning,” said Showalter. “That’s why you try to get that starter out of there.

“But in one of the meetings we had, it came out the average velocity is the highest it’s been in the history of the game, and the average location of pitches is better than it’s ever been. So you’re talking about guys who are throwing harder, locating better. And I think a lot has got to do with the bullpens.

“People have to realize that it’s a little less challenging sometimes to find some guy who can pitch one inning as opposed to six or seven, or eight or nine. And it’s a lot cheaper.”

Certainly it’s a lot cheaper than paying for a top starter like David Price, who signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with Boston.

Price is expected to be the type of starter who gives the bullpen a break every fifth night, the type of ace who helps settle an entire pitching staff over the course of a long baseball season. He is a rare commodity in this era, which is why it took a king’s ransom to win to win the free-agent sweepstakes.

Most other starting pitchers do not go as deep into games as consistently as Price. The solution to that is to build a strong bullpen. With Price at the top of the rotation, and a pair of strikeout pitchers joining the back end of the bullpen, the 2016 Red Sox will do their best to emulate the 2015 Royals.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.