When Red Sox brass met with the press in January after the announcement that the team and manager Alex Cora would be parting ways after his role in a sign stealing scandal while he was a coach with the Houston Astros in 2017 came to light, they kept repeating one point over and over: reserve judgment until MLB's investigation into alleged improper sign stealing by the Sox in 2018 was complete.

At the time, it seemed like an organization trying to soften what was sure to be a hard blow. But now that MLB's investigation results have been released, maybe Boston's front office was honestly asking for people to wait and see that there wasn't much fire under the smoke.

The report from Commissioner Rob Manfred found that video replay system operator J.T. Watkins sometimes would use the game feeds in the replay room during the regular season to improperly update sign sequence.

Unlike what happened in Houston in 2017, in which there was an intricate system in place to steal signs and communicate them to the batter, Watkins conduct was found to be "limited in scope and impact."

The report didn't find that Cora, the coaching staff, front office and most of the players knew or should have known about Watkins' conduct. It also found that the Sox consistently communicated MLB's rules about sign-stealing to non-players and had made "commendable efforts towards instilling a culture of compliance in their organization."

Watkins was suspended for the rest of the 2020 season and postseason and won't be able to return to his position next season as well. No one else on the team is being disciplined, but the team will lose its second-round pick in this year's draft.

As for Cora, his formal discipline from MLB has finally been announced: He'll be suspended through the conclusion of the 2020 postseason for his conduct while with Houston. Manfred declined to issue Cora's punishment until the investigation into Boston was finished.

Team president and CEO Sam Kennedy issued a statement after the report's release.

“As an organization, we strive for 100% compliance with the rules. MLB’s investigation concluded that in isolated instances during the 2018 regular season, sign sequences were decoded through the use of live game video rather than through permissible means," the statement read. “MLB acknowledged the front office’s extensive efforts to communicate and enforce the rules and concluded that Alex Cora, the coaching staff, and most of the players did not engage in, nor were they aware of, any violations. Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the Commissioner’s ruling.”

For the Red Sox, the result was about as good as they could have asked for outside of being found completely exonerated. No major punishment came down on the team, the brunt of the blame went to a single employee and no player's were found to have done anything worthy of discipline.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kennedy admitted he felt a sense of relief after the report came out.

"But to be clear, we aren't taking any victory laps or anything like that," he said." A violation was uncovered and that's wrong and not acceptable and we're being punished for it. But I am relieved that the report got to the truth and got to the bottom of what actually happened. And people will draw their own conclusions. But yes, I do feel a sense of relief and [am] glad the the investigative process is over."

On the call, Chief of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom said that the loss of the second-round pick is significant, especially with potential changes to the format of the draft.

"It's significant. I mean...a second-round pick, you typically with that type of pick you get one of the top two or three dozen players in the country the way your board lines up in a given year," he said. "That's significant. There have been some really, really outstanding second-round picks in the history of this organization. As we look to compete and to make sure that we have our organizational pipeline full, you want to make sure you have every possible avenue to add talent to your organization and this is one, that particular pick, is one that we won't have. So that's significant but obviously we understand and respect the penalty that the commissioner levied."

The report may also allow the organization to put to rest any claims that its 2018 World Series title was tainted: it specifically said that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the conduct continued into the 2018 postseason or 2019 regular season.

It also gave some form of closure for Cora after months of not knowing what his actual punishment would be. Additionally, it relieved him of the disgrace that could have come from being labeled a serial cheater in multiple organizations. But the report noted that Cora didn't effectively communicate sign-stealing rules to his players in the 2018 season.

After an offseason where the team suddenly and shockingly broke up with its manager, traded away its best player and couldn't even have its Home Opener on schedule because of the coronavirus, there's a silver lining from today's report. But the Red Sox still have the burden of those who will look back on 2018 and believe something will always be amiss.