I voted the third option, though I don't know if the large portion of the fanbase is unpredictable as they are fickle. Obviously fans will come out to see a team which just won a World Series, but that isn't the measure of a stable franchise. The Sox have largely failed on the field since 2005, but their attendance has dropped every season since 2006. They won the division in 2008 and drew over 2,000 less per game in 2009. They had a good team which competed in 2010, made a big splash in free agency and increased payroll by $25 million, and still drew 2,000 fewer per game in 2011. Sure, a large portion of that had to due with the team playing so poorly, but even with that, 1) season ticket sales didn't jump before the season, and 2) they weren't out of striking distance until early September. This year the team was in first place for most of the season, but to a large portion of the fanbase, winning baseball was not enough. They needed to be assured of a playoff spot before they bought in.
I think the 2010-11 offseason does a lot to disspell the "we won't spend until you come out" idea. The Sox spent that offseason because the team was good the year before, and they felt they were fixing the huge hole which almost singlehandedly kept them out of the playoffs the year before. There was no attendance bump before or after that, but they spent the money because they felt they had a chance to win a championship (and yes, make more money). People need to realize that ownership does not behave in the same way it did in 1999. They have spent lots of money over the past 8 years. It could be argued that they didn't spend it wisely, should have spent more in scouting, should have improved marketing, etc. but that is a different argument. They have spent money.
In Kenny We Trust 7/31/05