Some 30 years ago, an oil filter company had a TV spot, the tag line to which was: "You can pay me now . . . or pay me later.''
If you put that choice to the Red Sox in 2012, they would opt for the latter.
Despite a report Tuesday which suggested that they were "closing in" on a short-term deal with free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda -- a report denied by multiple industry sources -- the Sox are not likely to spend much more on their payroll before the start of the regular season.
Look at the nature of their recent signings: Carlos Silva, Aaron Cook and Justin Germano. Each is a small move, with little in the way of guaranteed money on the major-league payroll.
With a rotation that boasts Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buccholz and, for the time being, Daniel Bard, the Red Sox think they already have four quality starters.
To find a fifth, they're willing to have a spring competition between a handful of in-house candidates (Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves) and some of the low-cost minor-league free agents added in the last 10 days (Silva, Cook, Germano).
If they're fortunate, one will emerge as the Red Sox' version of either Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia, two veterans who helped the New York Yankees last season when the Yanks were in a similar cost-conscious mode.
With some off-days in the mix, the Red Sox need to get 15 or so starts from a fifth starter by the All-Star break.
Should they spend their money now, the Sox will give themselves little flexibility to make any in-season moves.
As such, the Red Sox have posed this question: Is it more likely that A) we can find a suitable back-end starter now and not need help in July, or is it more likely we can B) cobble together some fifth-starter solution for the first half of the year then have some available resources should we need to re-assess and make a move at the deadline?
The answer, of course, is "B.''
If the All-Star break arrives and the team needs pitching reinforcements -- either because of injuries or performance issues or both -- the Sox will have some flexibility for the final two months of the season and beyond.
What's more, their chances of convincing ownership that the addition outlay of salary in July will be better then than it is now.
When you factor in upcoming salary increases through arbitration, the remainder of the 40-man roster and the cost of benefits, the Sox are already projected to be over the luxury tax threshold of 178 million.
Signing an expensive veteran such as Kuroda or Roy Oswalt now would send them well over that figure, with no guarantee that either pitcher would hold up physically.
If the Sox put some money aside, find some cheaper in-house solutions and remain in contention, they will give themselves additional options. Remember, taking on salary at the July 31 deadline means taking on almost exactly one-third of someone's yearly pay.
So, should, Silva, Miller and Cook get them through the first 3 12 months of the schedule, the Sox will have saved their financial bullets to allow them to make a bigger impact at the deadline.