The move was on no one’s radar – except, of course, Dave Dombrowski’s and Alex Cora’s – but when the Red Sox announced that Hanley Ramirez was being designated for assignment, the reasons seemed suddenly clear:

Roster versatility.



What was most surprising was how it came about. Dombrowski, 61, has been a general manager or team president for 30 years. Cora, 42, has been a major league manager for two months.

Yet when Cora called Dombrowski last week with his thoughts, Dombrowski was all ears.

“It was about 11:30 in the morning. I was getting ready to go for a run,” Dombrowski said. “Alex said, ‘I have a thought for you about what we’re doing.’ He said, ‘This is a move I recommend’

“I was surprised. I digested it. Wrote some notes. Thought about it when I went for the run.”

The rookie manager has influence with the veteran front office boss and why not? Cora is Dombrowski’s hire.

“We talk about a lot of situations. For him to let me voice my opinion … I think that’s the reason he hired me,” Cora said. “He feels I have a good feeling about what’s going on, not only with us but around the league. I thank him for trusting me.”

Now, do Red Sox fans trust Cora? He’s considered a players’ manager but is not afraid to make changes.

Ramirez was fourth on the team in RBI (29), and third in OPS against left-handed pitching (.854 OPS). But given his limited defense and his month-long slump in May (.500 OPS), Cora felt stuck.

“We felt we gave him all the chances,” Cora said.

Ramirez’s only spot seemed to be as a platoon DH against lefties. Even if Ramirez handled such a demotion well – doubtful – it’s not the kind of player Cora wants.

“Versatility is very important to me,” Cora said.

WHAT KIND OF lineup does Cora want?

With the newly activated Dustin Pedroia back and catcher Blake Swihart now in the mix, Cora has moving parts. Utility players Eduardo Nunez (right-handed bat) and Brock Holt (left-handed) can fill in. But it’s Swihart’s presence that’s intriguing. He was the DH on Saturday, but Cora hinted he may catch the occasional game – maybe a message to Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez that while the defense and game-calling are admirable, they need to hit.

Ditto that message about defense and hitting to Jackie Bradley Jr.

Swihart will be worked in as a first baseman – a less dangerous proposition than left field at Fenway. Swihart is athletic and a hard worker but it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll adapt.

If Swihart hits, it won’t matter.

That was Ramirez’s problem. Without a hot bat, his spot in the lineup was tenuous.

“When Hanley plays first base, you know what you’re going to get from a defensive standpoint,” Dombrowski said. “But if you hit a lot, you overcome it.

“I can’t say if he was crushing the ball that there would have been the thought process (to let him go).”

In 2014, Swihart hit .300 in Portland with 12 home runs – more power batting right (seven homers), better batting average left (.315).

In 2015, when Swihart was an emergency call-up to the majors, he settled in and hit .274 with five homers in 84 games.

If given a chance, Swihart could emerge as a reliable bat.

But for all the optimism over Swihart, the possibility remains that he becomes trade bait, depending on Boston’s needs in the coming months and if his value increases. Boston has a right-handed first baseman in Sam Travis in Pawtucket.

THE MONEY is always part of the equation, even if Dombrowski said Ramirez’s vesting option had nothing to do with his departure from Boston.

While the Red Sox flushed $15 million away – the remains of Ramirez’s salary this year – they aren’t on the hook for Ramirez’s $22 million option for next year. If Ramirez had 302 more plate appearances, that option would have kicked in. If Ramirez had become a platoon player, the option would have become a distracting storyline.

But here’s a question for the Red Sox if money isn’t in the equation: If an outfielder becomes injured, does Boston promote Rusney Castillo from Pawtucket, even if that means his $11 million salary is factored into the team payroll for luxury- tax purposes? Castillo is batting .302. I’m thinking he needs to bat .402 to get a look.

As far as saving the $22 million, Boston has other uses for that. Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly are free agents after this year, not to mention others looking for an increase – what will Mookie Betts’ arbitration offer be next year?

There were several reasons for letting go of Hanley Ramirez.

Now let’s see if it pays off.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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