This wasn’t exactly a forward-thinking weekend for the Yankees, was it?

While they were putting a bow on contract terms for their 36-year-old shortstop and 41-year-old closer, the Red Sox traded for the Latino Mark Teixeira in Adrian Gonzalez, the White Sox added a perennial 40-home run threat to the middle of their lineup in Adam Dunn; even the adorable Nats signed away power of attorney so Jayson Werth could come lose 90 games for the next five years.

This isn’t to belittle or understate the importance of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. It was obvious New York had to keep them around, and as I predicted last week, there was motivation to get the “messy” Jeter negotiations done before the start of the winter meetings.

It was more striking than anything else—the Yankees shoring up their past while other teams aggressively addressed their futures.

It’s like a fat-on-his-riches record executive sitting in his den enjoying the Beatles library on iTunes while the younger upstarts with something to prove scour the local club scene for the next big thing. One guy soaking in “Yesterday” while the others look for tomorrow.

If the Yankees land Cliff Lee in the next two weeks, this will all be forgotten. But for now, it doesn’t feel like Brian Cashman has begun work on how to make the 2011 Yankees succeed where the 2010 team failed.

He’ll get that chance at the winter meetings, which differ from the general manager meetings in that success isn’t defined by who can clear out the mini-bar before happy hour starts.

Real work is done here, and Cashman has a lot of it on his plate. Who’s the No. 2 starter? How are they going to build the bridge to Mo? Is Pettitte coming back? Should they trust their young catchers? And if not, then who? And where the hell was I? (Sorry, Naked Gun reference. R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen.)

Luckily, the Yankees aren’t the only team in the AL East trying to figure things out.

Everyone just assumes the Rays will chug right along despite the impending losses of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano. Count me as one guy not convinced the ballyhooed prospects in the Tampa system will be able to contribute immediately.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, got themselves a fine player in A-Gon, but are they really that much better when the first baseman’s entrance signals Adrian Beltre’s exit? I, for one, was terrified of Beltre in a Boston uniform, and I thought he had more than just another good walk year in him.

They still have major outfield production issues, and Werth coming off the board certainly didn’t help. And don’t forget about the fallout from reports they tried to steal Rivera from the Yankees. Jonathan Papelbon was a headcase before this news. He might go into full-on Private Pyle mode now.

(Translation: Stay away from the latrines in spring training, Tito.)

So there’s no reason to panic as a Yankees fan—your team isn’t the only one scrambling right now. They’ve kissed and made up with The Icon. They’ve locked up the rights to “Enter Sandman” for another two years. The brand is fortified.

Now we’ll find out if Cashman can mold that brand into something that’s both profitable and successful.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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