BOSTON -- Shane Victorino is returning to Fenway, likely as early as tomorrow. Right behind him will be Will Middlebrooks, who could be ready to join the team as it begins a road trip in Toronto Monday.
Their returns to the Red Sox' roster have been anticipated for some time. But the tricky part will be determining who goes to make room for their arrival.
For Victorino, the move is simple enough: Mookie Betts, who has been getting irregular playing time in the last few weeks, can benefit from more seasoning at Triple-A.
If the future for Betts is indeed going to be in the outfield -- given the overcrowded infield situation in Boston -- then it would be wise to get him those reps at Pawtucket to better prepare him for 2015.
The move to create space for Middlebrooks will be a little trickier. The Sox have already optioned out Jonathan Herrera and have been playing without a true backup infielder for the past two weeks. In the interim, Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt have been the de-facto backup infielders, with Betts also available to play second if need be.
So there's no ''extra infielder'' to send out to accommodate Middlebrooks. The move will need to come from the glut of outfielders, of which the Sox will soon have six: Victorino, Holt, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp.
Victorino will (eventually) be the everyday right fielder. Bradley, whose offense has improved significantly in the last few weeks, has earned the right to the lion's share of playing time in center.
Holt, too, must stay, given his versatility and importance at the top of the lineup. Holt has a .371 OBP -- thought not all in the leadoff spot -- and will continue to be a lineup fixture.
As disappointing as Nava was in the first half, he, too, showed signs of improvement in recent weeks. Since returning from a second stint in the minors, Nava has compiled a slash line of .330/.419/.374 for a .793 OPS, far closer to his level of performance a year ago. Again, Nava has earned his roster spot.
That leaves Gomes and Carp.
Gomes' name has already surfaced in connection with the Roylas, who are said to have some interest. He would make some sense for Kansas City - a mostly young team that hasn't won in nearly 20 years.
Carp probably has some trade value as well, as a lefty bat coming off the bench, who could fill in at first and the outfield. It's likely the Sox could find a taker, too, though it's unlikely he would generate much of a return.
The trick may be getting a deal done for either one in the next 72 hours.\ Then again, Gomes is heading for free agency and Carp's performance this year has been far short of what he delivered in 2014.
Dealing either -- even under a self-imposed deadline -- won't impact the team much over the final 2 1/2 months.