So why try? Why not just admit the team's going to be bad for a few years and not waste money on 35+ years old players, just so you can "climb the ladder of respectability."
Because completely tanking in 2005 would probably cause attendance to drop, and it would also cause you to lose goodwill with all of the players currently employed by the Reds. Both of those results would hurt the Reds ability to try for something great in coming years.
It's not completely out of the possibility that the Reds stay in the playoff hunt through September, or even sneak in. They only need to improve by 15 wins or so, which is a lot, granted, but with some breaks it's doable.
A playoff run is great PR. It's great PR for the fan base, and it's even better PR for attracting free agents.
O'Brien is giving 2005 a little bit of a shot. If it works out, awesome. If the Reds suck anyway, then I'm sure he'll flip some people in July, and the organization will be stronger for it. Either way, none of this has hurt the Reds future.
As far as the draft, it was fully funded last season. Until O'Brien runs a draft that isn't, I think we have to assume that he'll be signing his draft picks.
It could be that John Allen doesn't mind lobbying for more money now that O'Brien is the GM. I'm sure he'll try harder if he likes Dan'O, since he didn't have the greatest relationship with Bowden.