By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — To state the obvious, baseball fans in Boston do indeed want the Red Sox to win the World Series. They always want the Red Sox to win the World Series, and will always want the Red Sox to win the World Series.

BUUUUUTTTTTTTTTT!

Considering the Red Sox entered 2021 coming off an embarrassingly abysmal season, and considering outside expectations when spring training opened were relatively low, and considering the Red Sox fell apart after their surprisingly strong start to the season, and considering the Yankees absolutely worked over the Red Sox for the final three months of the season, it is simply difficult to come to any conclusion other than this:

Beating the Yankees in the Wild Card playoff game was the icing on top of a shockingly successful season.

I know, I know, I know — championship expectations, World Series desires, leftover disgust at the Mookie Betts trade, etc., etc., etc. Yes, the city of Boston may not be the City of Champions like it was for some time, but it’s also not all the way back to being Loser Land, when relatively minor accomplishments were celebrated from seasons that did not end with trophies or parades.

Yet we still ought to be realistic about what this Red Sox team did all year, and what this Red Sox team did on Tuesday night.

During the year, the Red Sox shook off a 24-36 season, dealt with life without Chris Sale for much of the year, overcame an offseason that seemed to have more subtractions than additions, watched as their division rivals got praised for making better deadline deals, and made the playoffs as the AL’s top wild card team in a year where quite literally the general expectation placed upon them was to flirt with a playoff spot without actually contending.

And on Tuesday night, they ended the season of the New York Yankees. That’s always something that will be celebrated in Boston, and the fact that it came at Fenway Park, on national TV, with Gerrit Cole getting chased early, against a Yankees team that had actual World Series dreams and expectations back in April? That is simply too rich for it to not be savored.

The crowd at Fenway Park — those who were there to root for the Red Sox, of course — seemed to soak in the moment, providing the pops of energy and outbursts of emotions that were sorely missing in the empty ballpark a year ago. With Fenway hosting playoff baseball for the first time in three years, it certainly returned in the perfect way.

The Yankees had plenty of fans wearing pinstripes in the stands on Tuesday, and they had Bucky Dent — Bucky Freaking Dent — in the ballpark. But they all were sent packing, leaving Fenway feeling miserable. Any time that happens in Boston, it is a moment. And this was a great one.

Now, though, the Red Sox will be severe underdogs, and rightfully so. They went 8-11 vs. the Rays — their ALDS opponent this season — but 5-11 in their final 16 head-to-head matchups and 3-7 at Tropicana Field. The Rays will be fully rested, with a massive advantage in the bullpen and the benefit of playing at home, where they went 52-29 this season.

The Rays should win this upcoming series. That doesn’t mean they will win the next series; this is baseball, after all. But the Rays should win the series.

And if that happens, baseball fans in Boston will no doubt be disappointed. Any time the season ends without a Duck Boat parade down Boylston Street, that will always be the case. Such is the emotion of sports.

But the big picture view, from a realistic and logical perspective, is that this team already overachieved just by making the one-game playoff. By winning it, and getting to crush the Yankees’ spirits in the process? It’d be hard to get too upset about much of anything that comes next.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.