Red Sox GM has chance to build from manager down

The Boston Red Sox took two months to hire Bobby Valentine last

year, the start of a surprisingly long winter that proved to be one

of the least productive in franchise history.

This year, they need to move more quickly.

An offseason that began with another managerial firing must also

fill the holes in a roster that opened when the Red Sox traded

Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and Josh Beckett to the

Los Angeles Dodgers. The deal relieved Boston of $250 million in

future salary obligations, but it also left them looking for key

parts of the lineup.

As they head into a true rebuilding year, general manager Ben

Cherington will need a new manager along with fill-ins for the

players sent to the Dodgers. Also on his agenda: a new deal with

free agent designated hitter David Ortiz, a replacement for Daisuke

Matsuzaka and a decision on whether to make Jacoby Ellsbury a

multiyear offer or risk losing him to free agency in 2013.

”We made a big trade in August that came as a result of

recognition on our part that things weren’t going the way we wanted

them to go,” Cherington said after firing Valentine on Thursday

after just one year and a last-place finish. ”In order to be elite

again, we needed to make more than cosmetic changes.”

Valentine was hired on Dec. 1 to help change a clubhouse culture

in which players, including Beckett, ate fried chicken and drank

beer in the clubhouse rather than supporting their teammates during

games. But the players who took advantage of Terry Francona’s

hands-off style during an unprecedented September collapse rebelled

against Valentine’s abrasive style.

That helped Boston stumble to a 69-93 record that was its worst

in almost 50 years. Valentine was fired one day after the season

ended with an eighth consecutive loss, and Cherington said that

when searching for a replacement he will be looking for some

different qualities than the last time.

The team is pursuing current Blue Jays manager and former Red

Sox pitching coach John Farrell, but the Red Sox would have to

reach a deal with Toronto on compensation.

”The team is in a different point than it was last year when we

hired Bobby,” Cherington said. ”The roster was fairly mature and

we felt, mistakenly in retrospect, but we felt at the time, that we

had a chance to win and the team was ready to win. We’re now at a

different point.”

The first step in rebuilding was on Aug. 25, when Boston dumped

Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett on the Los Angeles Dodgers,

unloading more than $250 million in future salaries. But

opportunities to spend on this year’s free agent market are

considered thin, with Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton and Los

Angeles Angels pitcher Zack Greinke the top targets.

Ortiz is a free agent and coming off a strong but

injury-shortened year. Matsuzaka has reached the end of the

much-heralded six-year, $103.11 million deal that brought him over

from Japan. Ellsbury, a client of Scott Boras, is heading into the

final year of team control after playing just 74 games in 2012

because of injuries.

Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Felix Doubront are

under contract or under the team’s control for next year, and

Franklin Morales could be given a chance at a starting spot. The

bullpen needs depth and bounce-back years from Andrew Bailey and

Daniel Bard.

Although Cherington said last year’s team was ready to win when

Valentine came in, he wasn’t willing to concede that this year’s

isn’t.

”It’s a little bit of a different point in time from a

roster-evolution standpoint,” Cherington said. ”So now we’re very

early in the process of doing that and we’re going to work our

tails off to put the best team we can out there in 2013 and build

the next great Red Sox team. We don’t know exactly when that will

come to fruition.”