Dan Shaughnessey is not kind to Theo Epstein in his analysis of the comeback:
Unfortunately, there wasn't much honor or glory in Theo's comportment after he left Fenway in that gorilla suit Oct. 31. Rather, he undermined the credibility of the entire Boston front office by straddling the fence regarding his place in the organization. He repeatedly refused offers to return, but would not rule out coming back. He revealed himself to be every bit the cutthroat politician Lucchino is. He's been at best, immature and at worst, duplicitous.
With his silence and refusal to take himself off the map of Red Sox Nation, Epstein allowed himself to be put in a no-lose situation -- at the expense of everyone else currently toiling in baseball operations at Yawkey Way. Through his unofficial spokesman from ESPN (the inimitable Gammons), we heard Theo was behind deals the Sox made. He got credit for the good transactions, whether he deserved it or not, but would never be blamed if any failed.
Like a character from Camelot, Theo remained forever young, forever brilliant, forever the man who brought a championship to Boston. And as long as he operated in the shadows, or allowed us to believe he was still involved, he couldn't lose. This dynamic made Theo less than popular with some of his hard-working friends in baseball operations.
Tony Massarotti in the Boston Herald (in my opinion, the definitive voice on this story from the beginning) also sees the downside for Theo:
On the surface, it would be easy to celebrate Epstein’s return as a glorious reconciliation, but it would be foolish to do so. We already know too much. When Epstein walked away from the Red Sox on Oct. 31, his departure was looked upon nobly. In part because Lucchino diddled around during contract negotiations, Epstein thumbed his nose at the Sox and walked out the door. He had his whole life in front of him. Who needed the Red Sox? Now, Epstein is returning, and we cannot help but wonder: Why? Epstein is young and smart, and he (along with Lucchino and Henry) built the Red Sox into champions generally by making shrewd decisions. The Red Sox played the percentages during their run to the world title, yet it certainly seems now — for Epstein, in particular — the chances of failure are much greater than chances of success.
The Red Sox keep turning into the Yankees. This is the Billy Martin saga in the front office. Here's Shaughnessy on John Henry (emphasis added):
Henry and Lucchino were in Phoenix yesterday at the owners' meetings. I spoke with Henry late in the afternoon before he boarded a jet to fly home to Boston. I told him the same thing I had told him in December. I thought it looked as if he could not make a decision. I thought he should either fire Lucchino or tell Epstein to get lost. Nobody was going to buy the idea of Theo walking back into the same situation he walked away from in October. Why was Theo still hanging around, talking to co-GMs Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer? Why was the light still on if there was so much friction between Epstein and Lucchino?
Steinbrenner and Martin. I hate you you're fired. I love you come back.
Boston's front office is a soap opera. New York's front office is the calmest and quietest I've seen it since George took over. Who'd have thunk it?