By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Alex Cora was the perfect manager for the Boston Red Sox. He was beloved by his players, by the folks who signed his paychecks, and by the fans who believed he could do no wrong.

But Cora screwed up in a big way, and the Red Sox had no choice but to move on from a guy who led them to a World Series title just two years ago. There was no way the Red Sox could continue to employ Cora, who was ousted as the mastermind behind the Houston Astros cheating scandal of 2017, and is under investigation for similar shenanigans with Boston in 2018.

When the Astros fired manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow on Monday, it was pretty clear what the reactionary Red Sox would do with their skipper.

Cora has left a stain on two World Series titles, smears that the two franchises won’t be able to scrub off anytime soon. The Astros lost $5 million and four high draft picks over the next two years, and the Red Sox will likely face similar — if not steeper — penalties when MLB wraps up their investigation on the dugout antics of the 2018 Red Sox. While Boston’s scheme doesn’t seem as elaborate as the one Cora was carrying out in Houston, commissioner Rob Manfred is going to send a clear message when he punishes Cora and the Red Sox. The money won’t hurt too much thanks to John Henry’s deep pockets, but losing draft picks is going to really handcuff new GM Chaim Bloom as he tries to rebuild Boston’s barren farm system.

The whole situation is unfortunate on a number of levels. Cora was a solid manager, someone who could have manned the Boston bench for years to come. He’s a good guy too, going above and beyond to help his native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria decimated the island in 2017.

But he broke the rules, and now he has to pay the price. It’s unfortunate he lost his job, but there won’t be much sympathy for someone who blatantly broke the rules with one World Series champ, and then did it again with another.

The most frustrating part of the matter is that the Astros and Red Sox really didn’t need to play these spy games. Had they just stolen signs the old fashioned way like every other team at every other level of the game, chances are the focus would still be on the future of Mookie Betts and Boston’s quest to trim salary instead of a new managerial search. (Or there’d be no focus at all, since the Red Sox have been kind of boring this winter.)

But it was the inclusion of technology in the two schemes, something Manfred warned every team about two years ago, that took it too far. In the end, that’s what cost Cora the job he loved.

There will be more fallout from this, beyond whatever punishment Manfred doles out to the Red Sox. In addition to the Astros and Red Sox, there are reportedly a handful of other teams that engaged in similar antics. Manfred sent a message with his punishment of the Astros, he’ll hammer that message home with whatever he does to the Red Sox, and no team should feel safe after that. The fact that it was former players who ousted the Astros and Red Sox should make every franchise feel a little uneasy.

But that is the whole point of this. Baseball needed to cut this nonsense out, and they did so by going above and beyond in their punishments.

Cora deserves whatever suspension Manfred passes down. Maybe he didn’t deserve to lose his job in Boston, but the Red Sox didn’t have much of a choice after the Astros set the precedent on Monday. And now the Red Sox are scrambling to find a new manager with spring training just a month away.


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