So, you're asking, "What's the holdup? When are the Red Sox going to spring into action?"
Go back two offseasons ago, when Thanksgiving week represented perhaps even more panic than we're currently witnessing after then-free agent Victor Martinez jumped to the Tigers. If you recall, the only move the Red Sox had made by this time that offseason was trading Dustin Richardson for Andrew Miller (which, at the time, wasn't nearly as ballyhooed as the Sox' recent signing of backup catcher David Ross).
Just more than two weeks later, however, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford were employed by the Red Sox, and the "best team ever" mantra had started to percolate.
While the exact path the Red Sox will take in the coming days isn't totally clear, there are some dominos that we can identify as at least being lined up, ready to be sent on their way. Using information compiled from industry sources, here is an idea of what may open the doors to some player movement …
The outfield market -- in which the Red Sox should be active considering the need for a pair of outfielders -- hinges in large part on the decisions of B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn. Both players are considered among the elite free agents available, while not carrying the price tag (or red flags) of the other premier free agent outfielder, Josh Hamilton.
How does this affect the Red Sox? Well, two of the strongest suitors for Upton and Bourn are the Braves and Phillies, teams that also have strong interest in Cody Ross (although both clubs would prefer a center fielder). There are others in on the 31-year-old -- such as the Orioles, Mets, Mariners, Indians and Giants -- but until Upton and Bourn find their landing spots, there won't be much impetus for teams needing outfielders (such as the Red Sox) to go beyond their initial comfort level.
Another name to keep an eye on when monitoring the Ross developments is Ryan Ludwick. Like Ross, the power-hitting corner outfielder is hitting the market without the albatross that is a rejected qualifying offer (meaning no draft pick would be needed to sign him). The right-handed-hitting Ludwick has comparable numbers to Ross, having hit 26 home runs to go with a .877 OPS in 125 games while riding a one-year deal with the Reds last season. He is also three seasons removed from hitting 37 home runs with a .966 OPS while playing for the Cardinals.
Ludwick is, however, a few years older than Ross, and isn't considered on the same level defensively. He also has expressed an interest in returning to the Reds, and a two-year deal might get it done (whereas Ross is angling for a three-year contract). But Cincinnati is somewhat hamstrung by budgetary constraints and might have to choose between re-signing the outfielder or shoring up its bullpen (see free agent closer Ryan Madson).
Besides the outfield market, there also is the need for the Red Sox to make a move for a first baseman and starting pitcher. The name being identified as a potential good fit at first, Mike Napoli, doesn't figure to be a quick sign. There is some thought throughout baseball that Napoli's representatives will be waiting out the market a bit longer than some had previously anticipated. From the Sox' perspective, the time not only will allow them to see where the market is falling, but will allow the team to investigate Napoli's leg injury from a year ago a bit more in-depth.
Another injury concern for the Red Sox revolves around pitcher Dan Haren, whose $12 million option wasn't picked up by the Angels and has battled back issues. Those back woes are what might make the Sox hesitate, but if the reports are satisfactory, Haren could represent a more palatable financial commitment than the 29-year-old Anibal Sanchez, who has drawn interest from the Sox despite potentially coming with a significant price tag (both in terms of years and money).
In terms of potential trades, the Red Sox have subtly positioned themselves in a solid position thanks to a surplus at two positions the free agent market is thin with -- catching and left-handed relief pitching.
It was a chief reason the team was so proactive in signing David Ross, a top option from the free agent market who gives the team greater depth from which to make a deal. The surplus of potential big league catchers doesn't necessarily mean the Sox will make a deal, but it does allow them to see what the market might be for Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway. A lot of teams need catching, and now that's something the Red Sox can offer if they can find a satisfactory return.
Another thing more than a few organizations desire is legitimate left-handed relievers, which was evidenced when the Giants locked up Jeremy Affeldt to a three-year, $18 million deal last week. By one industry source's calculations, there only are four semi-reliable left-handed free agent relievers on the market (Sean Burnett, Randy Choate, Mike Gonzalez, J.P. Howell), with at least 15 teams desperately needing help at the position. While it wouldn't appear as though the Red Sox would be quick to trade Craig Breslow or Franklin Morales, Rich Hill and/or Andrew Miller might be desirable to more than a few clubs.
As for committing to their own players, as first reported by ESPNBoston.com's Joe MacDonald, the Red Sox will explore a contract extension with second baseman Dustin Pedroia at some point in the coming months, although the likelihood is that those discussions wouldn't take place until spring training. While Pedroia is under team control through 2015, there might be some motivation from the club's perspective to get something done before Robinson Cano inks what figures to be a monster deal. The good news for the Sox, however, is that Pedroia appears willing to talk about an extension even before a Cano contract is signed, with the second baseman carrying a motivation to be with the Red Sox for the remainder of his career.
All of that said, the reality is that any extension will be difficult to reach considering the level of leverage the player can attain now -- when he is three years from from free agency and coming off a year when his numbers suffered while he played through a succession of hand injuries -- compared to what he might have a year from now. Jon Lester, who could become a free agent after the '14 season (assuming the team exercises its option on him after the coming year), is a more likely candidate for an extension in the coming months.