After asking around, word on the Cupertino street is that there’s nothing to read between the lines regarding Bob Mansfield no longer being on Apple’s executive team. Apple’s statement means exactly what it says — Mansfield is well-liked at all levels within the company and truly is working on special projects (read: new products). No euphemism there.
Gruber says that unlike Scott Forstall's removal as SVP, Mansfield will really be working on special projects. His unretirement as SVP in 2012 was intended to give Apple more time to transition his role to someone else which appears to be happening now.