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Now comes the hard part for the Red Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  October 21, 2012 01:34 PM

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The Red Sox have their manager. Now the real work starts for general manager Ben Cherington.

Here is the lineup at the moment:

1B: Vacant
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Will Middlebrooks
SS: Vacant
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway
LF: Vacant
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Vacant
DH: Vacant

No. 1 Starter: Jon Lester
No. 2 Starter: Clay Buchholz
No. 3 Starter: Vacant
No. 4 Starter: Felix Doubront
No. 5 Starter: John Lackey
Depth starters: Vacant
Closer: Andrew Bailey
Set-up men: Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, Mark Melancon

The Sox hope to retain David Ortiz and Cody Ross. But they have a lot of needs, particularly a solid starting pitcher to make the rotation deeper. Doubront is coming off a huge jump in innings and Lackey is coming off Tommy John surgery. If the Red Sox go into the season counting on them for 30 starts each, it's a tremendous risk.

They need to figure out if Jose Iglesias is ready to play shortstop every day and if players like Ryan Sweeney, James Loney, Daniel Nava are worth keeping around. Can Daniel Bard be salvaged?

Is Pedro Ciriaco really a player? His career statistics suggest last year was an anomaly, but maybe he can he helpful off the bench.

Ellsbury is under control for one more season, then he will enter the promised land of free agency with Scott Boras by his side. Should the Red Sox trade him now before it's too late?

There is literally no team in baseball with as much payroll and roster flexibility as the Red Sox have. They could do almost anything.

The Sox also need a coaching staff. John Farrell could bring some of his Toronto coaches with him. Third base coach Brian Butterfield, a Maine native, would be a good fit. The guess here is the Sox will retain Tim Bogar and Gary Tuck. Alex Ochoa could stick, too.

There are likely changes coming to some degree in the rest of the staff, too. The Sox still do not have a strong grip on medical issues based on some of the indecision and other issues that occurred last season.

Getting Farrell on board starts the process. Cherington and Farrell can now work together on assembling a roster and a staff both can live with.

For Cherington, the decisions made in the coming months will surely determine his viability as the GM. He inherited a mess from Theo Epstein last fall and then had Bobby Valentine forced on him. From this point forward, this is his team and he will rise or fall with it.

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