Compare the 2004 and 2012 Red Sox and the differences are extreme, top to bottom, on the field, in the clubhouse, inside the Front Office.
The pitching was better in 2004. They had two potential Hall of Famers in Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Then solidity after that with Wakefield, Lowe, and Arroyo. 933 combined career wins from those five guys.
The hitting was also better. Assisted by PEDs, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were the best 3-4 combo since Ruth/Gehrig. The Sox led the AL in runs, OBP, and SLG. The 2012 Sox offense is inconsistent, 4th in runs, 7th in OBP, 6th in SLG.
The 2004 Sox had a better attitude. The players were laid-back. They had a Manager that allowed that easygoing attitude. Kevin Millar, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz were entertaining characters. Quieter guys like Bill Mueller and Derek Lowe seemed to enjoy the Millar/Manny sideshows drawing all the attention.
The Manager also balanced a pair of prima donnas (Pedro and Schilling). Both of them remained focused on the same goal: winning. Terry Francona got the most out of those two just like General Eisenhower got the most out of Patton and Montgomery in World War II. Francona kept everything low key.
In 2012, Bobby Valentine goes out of his way to keep players on edge. He criticizes them in the media, and he doesn't move on and let things go.
The GM is different too. In 2004, Theo Epstein had the balls and the authority to trade Nomar. Could you imagine, in a pennant race, Ben Cherington being allowed to trade a star player?
Players, managers, and GMs change. But the ownership is still the same. Or is it?
In 2004 the owners owned just the Red Sox. They had no other concerns. And their only goal was to win the World Series, at all costs.
Now they own a struggling soccer team in Liverpool. And the aims of the Red Sox is scattered and out of order. It's tough to figure out which objectives are the most important for them. They have to sell tickets, use the media to besmirch ex-players, lie about sellout streaks, market the ballpark, overspend on free agents, and somewhere in this mess of priorities is trying to win ballgames.
In 2004, the Red Sox were John Henry's biggest concern, his main focus. Now, when the '04 Sox are honored at Fenway, the owners aren't even present.
The Sox were once Fenway Sports Group's entire empire. Now they're just a colony, and Larry Lucchino is the Imperial Governor, appointed by King John to run day-to-day operations.
But Larry Lucchino hasn't run the Sox, he's ruined them.
The way ownership operate this team is the biggest difference between 2004 and 2012.