Now that the manager is out of the way, there are only about a half-dozen other critical decisions that have to be made before Spring Training.
1.) Let's start with a pitching coach. Curt Young took the first flight out of Logan as soon as Black September wrapped up. He's back in Oakland. Former Red Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace served under Bobby V. for two years with the Mets, so he is a logical hire. Do it!
2.) Next, we need a closer. We think the Red Sox made a big mistake not re-signing Jonathan Papelbon, but that's Bud Light under the bridge. We need Heath Bell to be signed as soon as possible—before the Blue Jays scoop him up. Put Bard in the starting rotation.
3.) How about a right-fielder? The most logical choice to replace the "worth more than $14 million" J. D. Drew is Michael Cuddyer. He's tough, he's durable, he's got a .343 career OBP, and he's available. Go get him!
4.) Then there's the two open slots in the starting rotation. Putting Daniel Bard in the starting rotation (after Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz) leaves only the fifth spot open. Assuming Wake is not coming back, we would suggest going after a filler option like Roy Oswalt. This also allows us to keep Alfredo Aceves as a set-up 8th-inning guy.
5.) OK, now Designated Hitter. If Papi is allowed to walk to Toronto or Baltimore, we should sign Aramis Ramirez to play third and make Kevin Youkilis the DH. This would also bring Boston into line with the overall trend of making DHs rotatable among two or three players—giving more rest to all. One could see Youk, Ramirez and A-Gon rotating roles to give a "blow" to each one as needed.
6.) Penultimately, catcher. Assuming Jason Varitek is wearing Oriole black and orange in 2012, we think Jarrod Saltalamacchia should be backed up by Ryan Lavarnway. Let the kid play—if he clicks, he could be the number one catcher next year.
7.) Finally, shortstop. I know, I know—Marco Scutaro is signed to be our everyday guy. However, at 35, he's not the best option. Jed Lowrie can't be counted on to be a healthy back-up either. If they can deal Lowrie (there is interest), then the Jose Iglesias Era should begin. First, as back-up, and, if he clicks, as the mid-season starter.
It's not that complicated. The Red Sox just need to do it.