BOSTON — Alex Cora is a cheater.

Let’s not bury the headline. Cora would not be the former Red Sox manager today if he hadn’t been implicated by Major League Baseball in a pair of electronic sign-stealing schemes. His transgressions as bench coach of the Astros and, allegedly, in Boston certainly merited his departure Tuesday night.

How the franchise moves forward promises to offer a stern test of character. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom never could have anticipated such a challenge so early in his tenure. The first formal statement issued by the club seemed to convey genuine emotion at being forced to reach such a conclusion.

Wednesday’s press conference at Fenway Park brought more of the same for roughly 45 awkward minutes. Club CEO Sam Kennedy went out of his way on multiple occasions to use the phrase offered by the Red Sox on Tuesday. Boston and Cora “mutually parted ways” — not a firing, not a resignation.

“It’s not ideal,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry said. “It’s not what we would like to be doing at this point. We were all surprised to read this report on Monday.”

Cora was named 11 times in the nine-page document released by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to begin the week. Cora’s central role in Houston’s malfeasance brought both a personal dark cloud and one that threatened to linger over any future employer. The current MLB investigation into Boston’s 2018 champions could make Cora a two-time loser at Manfred’s office doorstep.

“Everyone acted in the best interests of the club and knew it was best to part ways,” Kennedy said. “[Cora] was remorseful. He apologized.”

The Red Sox had no choice. And it feels like they’re trying to give Cora an eventual chance to rehabilitate his career after he serves any potential upcoming ban from Major League Baseball. It speaks more to the human side of Cora and what he created in Boston than some of the actions that led to the end of his time here.

To bestow that single label of cheater on Cora — some sort of scarlet letter or all-encompassing epitaph for his brief tenure — is to miss the point entirely. There are real psychological consequences to face for Red Sox staff members and players in the coming weeks and months. Cora’s two years with the club seemed to leave a personal connection not seen since Terry Francona was last at the helm in 2011.

“My brother, more than my manager, you were a friend, a pana [pal] and advisor during these two years,” Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez posted on his personal Instagram page late Tuesday. “I learned a lot from you. Thank you for everything.”

Hiring Cora to serve as Boston’s 47th manager started as an unquestioned triumph. The Red Sox were bringing in a winner, a well-liked former player who understood both the product on the field and the media game off it. Boston was also taking another significant step toward addressing its shameful overall record regarding race relations, with Cora representing its first manager of color.

His debut season in 2018 was something out of a dream. Cora guided the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 wins and playoff victories over the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers. That final Chris Sale strikeout of Manny Machado on an October night in Los Angeles seemed to make Boston immortal. In fact, it was the high point that preceded what has been a shocking 15-month fall from grace.

What’s left behind most of all is uncertainty. Bloom is presiding over his first real managerial search. Players who were clearly aided by Cora’s uncanny motivational touch — Rodriguez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts come to mind — will be forced to find common ground quickly with the fourth Red Sox manager in a decade.

Despite being handsomely paid and accustomed to the vagabond’s existence that accompanies a life in professional sports, players have feelings. They bleed. They occasionally struggle for confidence. They’re still affected by success and failure like the rest of us.

Cora seemed preternaturally equipped to handle that part of the job. But it was his own thirst for victory — his fatal professional flaw, as it turns out — that led to his downfall. Boston’s acceptance of that fact began Wednesday afternoon, and its organizational future will be determined by what comes next.

bkoch@providencejournal.com

On Twitter: @BillKoch25