A decade into David Ortiz' Red Sox career, the team finally made explicit what anyone paying attention has known for at least five years — he's the heart and soul of the team.

Dustin Pedroia rightfully earns plaudits for his hard-nosed style and take-no-prisoners attitude. Jon Lester has quietly and humbly established himself as the rock of the pitching staff. Their professionalism is beyond reproach.

But when it comes to combining performance, institutional memory and a willingness to work behind the scenes, this is Ortiz' team. And yesterday the Sox made that clear.

In officially announcing Ortiz' two-year, $26?million contract extension, general manager Ben Cherington declared the designated hitter a building block, even two weeks before he turns 37, because of everything he means and has meant to the franchise.