Having a great performer and great performances reflects SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. Arguing that the Red Sox brass are the "smartest guys in the room" is inconsistent and illogical with two last place seasons in three years.
Yes, luck matters in sports, and baseball has more luck associated than many other sports, e.g. basketball. Michael Mauboussin addresses this in "The Success Equation." And obviously, the Red Sox had a combination of skill and luck in winning last season. I won't suggest that karma from the Marathon bombing gave them a tailwind.
But luck shouldn't figure so much in often non-existent offense or lack of inspirational play. Certainly we all recognize the season-to-season variation that occurs in baseball. George Scott's 1967 .303 morphs into 1968s .171 or Dwight Evans .292 in 1982 becoming .238 the next season. Last season the Red Sox led the majors in runs scored and OPS. This season the Sox are tied for 13th in runs, 11th in OPS, and tied for 13th in slugging percentage in the AL. Moneyball has degenerated to Money Bawl.
Nobody gives the players a free pass. But management did almost nothing to improve the team, losing Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarod Saltalamacchia to free agency, and figuratively stabbed Xander Bogaerts in the back signing Stephen Drew for ten million dollars after allegedly reassuring Bogaerts.
Stephen M.R. Covey discusses The Speed of Trust with the combination of integrity, intent, process, and results. Fans don't believe that ownership deserves trust. The media aptly describes the brass as either aloof, cartoonish, or duplicitous. You can fill in the names.
Showing the players that 'cheap wins' based on last season's success becomes more than a public relations disaster. The reality from a performance statistic is that Lester is unlikely to average more than fifteen wins a year over five years in the post-steroid era. But do you plug in minor leaguers at major league minimums expecting equal results?
Sometimes you have to overpay for talent, but taking a hard line every time will not create the SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. Professionalism is giving your best effort every day, even when you don't feel like it. As my old college coach used to say, "it's just that simple."