BOSTON — Each of Aaron Boone’s four years as manager of the New York Yankees has ended the same way: with a loss in the playoffs and questions about what went wrong for a team that averaged 98 wins in Boone’s three full seasons in charge.

So it was early Wednesday morning as the Boston Red Sox celebrated their trip to the American League Division Series at the Yankees’ expense. But this time, the backdrop to the conversation had changed. Boone’s contract was up after an agonizingly streaky season that left frenetic New York fans calling for his head at several points. As it decides on its manager, the franchise may need to reevaluate its competitive standing in the sport, too.

What the world sees in the Yankees is a free-spending behemoth, a win-or-fire-everyone franchise that settles for nothing less than titles. For decades, George Steinbrenner and his family stood for just that. But the reality of the 2021 Yankees is they simply were not built for October: not deep enough in the rotation; too limited by high-risk, high-reward sluggers; and too dependent on young players to whom the pressures of New York have not been kind.

They should not be disappointed by a wild-card berth because they were not the best team in their division. The Rays were. They should not be surprised to have fallen to the Red Sox, for whom expectations were far lower, because they didn’t dominate Boston during the regular season. In fact, it took the Yankees until the last day of the regular season to ensure they would earn a postseason berth instead of the Toronto Blue Jays. That the Yankees expect to win every year does not mean they are equipped to do so. This year, as their record and streakiness and seemingly constant frustration showed, they were not.

“The league’s closed the gap on us,” Boone said after the game, citing the rise of the Blue Jays and others as a sign that the Yankees’ annual supremacy is no longer a given. “We got to get better.”

This is how the Yankees say they weren’t good enough: They do not say that they are chasing, only that they are being chased anew. But the fact is they are chasing now, chasing in a city that isn’t accustomed to seeing them as underdogs — chasing in a city that knows full well this team has all the resources it needs to lead the pack and is frustrated it isn’t doing so.

“Obviously with the expectations we have for ourselves and the expectations our fans have for us and our owner and our GM, you think you’re going to get [to the World Series] every year,” said veteran Brett Gardner, whose first full season in 2009 ended in the Yankees’ most recent title and who is uncertain whether he will return to pursue another. Asked why the Yankees haven’t been able to match that feat since, Gardner echoed Boone.

“The first answer I have is that we’re playing against really good teams. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the Red Sox right now or the Rays the way they’ve been the last couple years, playing them in the postseason last year, and obviously the Astros before that,” he said. “ … It’s harder now than it’s ever been to get to the World Series and win the World Series.”

The implication, of course, is that the Yankees need to adjust — and large-scale roster adjustments are the responsibility of the front office. Brian Cashman has directed the Yankees’ baseball decisions so long he has seen dynasties come and go. But he is now mired in the longest World Series drought of his tenure at a time when the game and the ways teams try to win are changing rapidly.

This Yankees lineup did, in some ways, underachieve. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu went from competing for a batting title to a disappointing season, with a .268 batting average more than 30 points below his career norm. After two all-star seasons to start his Yankees career, Gleyber Torres saw his power drop off the map. Gary Sánchez has yet to rediscover the power and consistency he showed in all-star seasons in 2017 and 2019.

LeMahieu seems likely to bounce back. Torres and Sánchez have shown signs of fraying and may need a fresh start.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge produced at the level of their career norms. Midseason pickups Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo didn’t erupt as Yankees, but they offered the left-right balance the lineup needed — if not the more consistent contact it probably could have used. The Yankees finished with the 13th-best on-base-plus-slugging percentage in baseball, and a team built to slug its way to a title tied for the sixth-most home runs. And yet New York scored three runs or fewer in nearly half (70) of its 162 games.

The midseason deal Cashman made for reliever Clay Holmes may be the steal of the summer, and he bolstered a bullpen that emerged as the strength of a team that was supposed to hit its way out of trouble.

But the rotation just wasn’t deep enough to dominate this time of year. Yankees starters compiled the eighth-best ERA in the majors in the second half, a respectable 3.84 mark, impressive in part because of all the injuries that sent New York reaching into its farm system for spot starters. But every team experiences those injuries, especially after a shortened season. Of the seven teams whose rotations had better ERAs in the second half, six are still in the playoffs and the other is Toronto. There, as elsewhere, the Yankees were good but not elite.

Little of that is the fault of ace Gerrit Cole, who was dominant early this season before struggling in his last few starts heading into a playoff outing he referred to as sickening. He wouldn’t blame injuries and said he couldn’t find a common denominator with the last three starts of his regular season, in which he pitched to a 7.64 ERA and allowed a .329 batting average against after compiling a 2.75 ERA to that point.

But he has been the Yankees’ most reliable stopper all year, without much competition. The Dodgers, Brewers and White Sox can go three or four deep with starters who could stare down Cole, if not always match him. Winning a World Series seems likely to require more firepower.

Cole will be back next season. So will most of the bullpen that emerged as one of the game’s best. Stanton, Judge and LeMahieu are under contract. The core of the roster seems likely to return, and Boone said he hopes to join them. His players do not seem to disagree.

Stanton said he and Boone grew up together in this uniform, having joined the Yankees at the same time. Judge said he hopes Boone returns next season, too.

“Special person, special coach,” Judge said. “Hoping for more in the future.”

Asked what went wrong, what changes need to be made, what more they could have done, Boone repeatedly praised his team for what it did accomplish — for even getting to this point, something he said should never be taken for granted.

But in a city where playoff berths are assumed and titles expected, considering the postseason an accomplishment simply doesn’t stand. What no one seems ready to admit is that perhaps the Yankees just weren’t built for more, not this time. If Boone doesn’t return, his departure does not seem likely to solve that.