A year ago, even before their original list of potential managerial candidates were summoned to Fenway, certainly before they contemplated hiring Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox were first infatuated with Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
A year later, they're right back in the same position.
In the aftermath of Valentine's firing, the Sox, numerous sources indicate, have made Farrell their first priority.
But just like last year, getting permission to offer him the job will not be simple.
Last fall, Farrell was a year into a three-year contract he signed with the Jays. After first stating that they wouldn't stand in the way if any employee wanted to join another organization, they abruptly changed club policy and demanded compensation.
Toronto asked for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, a price the Sox naturally deemed prohibitive.
Now, Farrell has just one year remaining on his deal, but the Jays aren't inclined to let him come to the Red Sox without getting something in return.
One industry source said the Jays would demand a "significant'' player in return for letting Farrell out of his deal. An executive with another major league team said he believed the Jays would ask for a top prospect ("not one of their top three, but right below that") in exchange.
Farrell is unique in that he's the top choice of both ownership and upper management as well as the team's Baseball Operations department. Both like that Farrell has a strong pitching background, would command immediate respect in the Boston clubhouse and understands the demands of the market.
Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, who enjoys a close relationship with Red Sox CEO and President Larry Lucchino, will likely hold the key to a deal getting done.
Beeston is an affable sort and some who know him believe he wouldn't stand in Farrell's way if the manager expressed a strong desire to return to the Red Sox.
There are complications, however.
First, Beeston doesn't want the Jays viewed as a farm club for U.S.-based big market team, especially one that competes in the same division. Were he to move from the Jays to the Red Sox, Farrell would bring a unique perspective on the inner workings, philosophy and personnel in the Toronto organization.
If Beeston lets Farrell out of his deal with little in return, he'll appear weak to the team's fan base.
Secondly, the Jays hold some leverage. With Farrell still under contract, the Jays are entitled to compensation and because of his work history with the Sox and relationships with both GM Ben Cherington and assistant GM Mike Hazen, Farrell is worth more to the Red Sox than any other franchise.
In another year, if Farrell's deal expires, Toronto will not get anything if he chooses to go elsewhere, though presumably, the Red Sox will have another manager by then.
As much as the Sox want Farrell, however, they are set to be adamant about not wanting the compensation issue to drag on, hindering other moves that must be made to rebuild a 93-loss team. The Sox were embarrassed by the long, drawn-out -- and ultimately unsatisfying -- compensation they themselves received for letting Theo Epstein leave with a year remaining on his contract to become president of the Chicago Cubs.
If the Sox can't work out a deal for Farrell in the span of, say, a week, look for them to take their managerial search elsewhere.
Both Cherington and Lucchino indicated Thursday that they might be open to considering candidates without previous major league managerial experience, a change that would increase the pool of potential candidates.
Here are some names who would likely be on a secondary list:
A longtime major league catcher, Ausmus is considered one of the brightest people in the game. He has significant New England roots -- born in New Haven; a Dartmouth alum; homeowner on the Cape -- and has long been considered managerial material.
Ausmus is a special assistant with the San Diego Padres and would undoubtedly come with a strong recommendation from Padres GM Josh Byrnes, Epstein's one-time assistant in Boston.
Lovullo, ironically, is Farrell's first base coach in Toronto, but unlike Farrell, has a contract that expires at the end of the month, leaving him free to take a job elsewhere without compensation.
Lovullo, too, is familiar with the Boston organization, having managed Pawtucket in the 2010 season. That means, too, that he managed a number of players on the current Red Sox roster.
He also enjoys a good relationship with Hazen, who was the Red Sox' farm director when Lovullo managed the Pawsox. And, having worked two years under Farrell in Toronto, Lovullo has learned firsthand from someone the Sox respect.
Bogar interviewed, unsuccessfully, for the Astros managerial opening last month and also interviewed for jobs in Toronto and Seattle.
The former infielder is open to the game's analytics, having devised a new method by which players are evaluated, but has extensive playing and managing experience. He also has worked in Boston long enough to understand the demands of the job and the market.
If there's a negative for Bogar, it's that he worked on the staffs of the last two Red Sox managers, both of whom were fired. The Sox may want a clean break from their recent past.
It's worth noting that while Farrell enjoys consensus support throughout the organization -- from both the ownership level and Baseball Operations - no other potential candidate has such broad approval.
Should the Sox be unable to pry away the one manager upon whom they agree, how would the process work in finding a compromise candidate?
For now, their sights set squarely on Farrell, that's a prospect the Sox would rather not ponder.