Ben Cherington has a number of roster options to pursue now that the duck boats have returned to their usual duties (and Jake Peavy's back yard).
How does Cherington re-capture the offseason magic that brought the Red Sox free agent winners like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, and Jonny Gomes?
Lou Merloni offers his blueprint for a successful offseason repeat.
"I'd like to see [the Red Sox] bring Stephen Drew back," says Merloni. "It's all about depth."
The Red Sox have Xander Bogaerts ready to go, and he flashed glimpses of his promise in the regular and postseason (albeit in a small sample size). They also presumably have Will Middlebrooks to man the hot corner, but Merloni says that's not the lock it once seemed to be.
Middlebrooks struggled in 2013, and was sent down to Pawtucket to get his confidence and his swing back, before returning to Boston.
"I wouldn't be shocked one bit if there's people [within the Red Sox organization] who feel [Middlebrooks] could use more time in Triple-A to figure this thing out."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a free agent. David Ross will be back as a very capable backup. The Sox have a number of minor league prospects who figure to be 2-3 years away from being ready to contribute at the Major League level.
Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz are the two big-name catchers on the free agent market.
Take your pick, Lou.
"I would rather have Ruiz. McCann is going to get close to $100M. I think he's probably better suited for a team that can DH him."
McCann certainly has the track record and a reputation as a slugging backstop. He also figures to come with a hefty price tag and the type of long-term commitment that the Red Sox have tried to stay away from since shipping a quarter of a billion dollars in contracts to the Dodgers.
Ruiz figures to be a far more affordable and short-term solution until the minor league prospects are ready for prime time.
"[Ruiz] can hit righties, he can hit lefties, he sees some pitches, he draws some walks, he calls a good game," says Merloni. "I think for two years, he's a very nice stopgap."
Jacoby Ellsbury is the stud of the free agent outfield crop. His agent, Scott Boras, seems determined to get Ellsbury a contract that tops Carl Crawford's seven-year, $142 million deal.
That's likely to be too rich for the Sox' taste.
They do have Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings, but his 2013 performance left some to wonder if maybe he couldn't use some additional seasoning in Pawtucket.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have been connected with Carlos Beltran.
"I think he's a really good fit," says Merloni. "This is a legit 2-3 hole hitter."
Cherington worked magic last year and it resulted in a World Series. Can lightning strike twice?