So I realize the common way for animations to be done is in-place with sliding feet, then control the animation playback to coincide with the character's feet, etc. However, given a scenario such as a chess game, where you'd want to play an animation of the chess piece moving forward, then when it stops you'd want its root position updated so the next animation that played would start from the new "square." Note that this is just an example, and that the same requirement could be in place for a person doing a ground roll, a blobular mass moving forward, etc. Rather than try to type everything I tried here, I have put together a short 8 minute screencap walking through the exact steps I took to replicate the issue in Blender 2.7 and Unity 5.
Basically, the "Apply root motion" option does not work as expected (or at least as I expected). in the end, I'm looking fir a viable way of doing in-place animation in Blender and getting the root motion to be properly applied in Unity.
Let me know if you need any specifics, thanks!
EDIT: A (rather lengthy) tutorial on the 'right way' to do it. I geared it towards novice-level users, so it goes through the modeling, rigging, animating, exporting, and Unity steps, but if you're here looking for the solution to this question, there are annotations pointing to the different sections. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKP2Qy-yKhE