BOSTON -- Several hours before the Red Sox triggered their biggest celebration at Fenway Park in 95 seasons, general manager Ben Cherington spoke of the importance of not letting up in the quest for sustained success.
But rejoicing over the transformation of a last-place team into a World Series champion with a new manager unifying a retooled roster in front of a community healing from the Boston Marathon bombing was too special to pass up.
"Wow, World Series champion," outfielder Daniel Nava said early Thursday morning after the Red Sox had capped their turnaround by beating the Cardinals four games to two. "That sounds weird. But that's awesome. It will sink in days from now, years from now. But this is special."
The Red Sox's quest to repeat in the highly competitive American League East will be put to the test, especially with the young division threats -- Rays and Orioles -- and the uncertainty over whether free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will return.
The biggest stabilizer, however, could be manager John Farrell, who oversaw a highly prepared coaching staff, gave his players enough freedom without them losing focus and navigated without the use of the designated hitter to seize two important victories in Games 4 and 5 at St. Louis.
"He puts us in positions to succeed," pitcher Jake Peavy said. "Everybody is about each other. He's no different than any other player in here. He's in charge, so it says a lot about John Farrell to push the right buttons, get on us when we needed to be gotten on and let the boys play when they needed to play."
The players also carved their own niche in the community by visiting victims in hospitals after the April attack.
"When we went to the hospital on those visits, I felt like I walked away with more hope and joy than the people who were in there," Nava said. "This is definitely for them. A lot of people lost family members and limbs and arms. This is for them."
John Lackey's Game 6 victory mirrored the transformation of a pitching staff that injuries and failures had scarred in 2012. The pitching staff improved from 12th to sixth in the AL in ERA and saved its best for last with the performances of Jon Lester and Lackey in their final two games.
"To pitch in this ballpark, what a challenge every day," pitching coach Juan Nieves said. "The American League doesn't give you much leeway either. But being able to navigate themselves in this park, where we play half our games, it's a wonderful job by them."
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