By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer

BOSTON (AP) _ The Boston Red Sox took two months to hire Bobby
Valentine last year, the start of a surprisingly long winter that
proved to be one of the least productive in franchise history.

This year, they need to move more quickly.

An offseason that began with another managerial firing must also
fill the holes in a roster that opened when the Red Sox traded
Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and Josh Beckett to the
Los Angeles Dodgers. The deal relieved Boston of $250 million in
future salary obligations, but it also left them looking for key
parts of the lineup.

As they head into a true rebuilding year, general manager Ben
Cherington will need a new manager along with fill-ins for the
players sent to the Dodgers. Also on his agenda: a new deal with
free agent designated hitter David Ortiz, a replacement for Daisuke
Matsuzaka and a decision on whether to make Jacoby Ellsbury a
multiyear offer or risk losing him to free agency in 2013.

“We made a big trade in August that came as a result of
recognition on our part that things weren’t going the way we wanted
them to go,” Cherington said after firing Valentine on Thursday
after just one year and a last-place finish. “In order to be elite
again, we needed to make more than cosmetic changes.”

Valentine was hired on Dec. 1 to help change a clubhouse culture
in which players, including Beckett, ate fried chicken and drank
beer in the clubhouse rather than supporting their teammates during
games. But the players who took advantage of Terry Francona’s
hands-off style during an unprecedented September collapse rebelled
against Valentine’s abrasive style.

That helped Boston stumble to a 69-93 record that was its worst
in almost 50 years. Valentine was fired one day after the season
ended with an eighth consecutive loss, and Cherington said that
when searching for a replacement he will be looking for some
different qualities than the last time.

The team is pursuing current Blue Jays manager and former Red
Sox pitching coach John Farrell, but the Red Sox would have to
reach a deal with Toronto on compensation.

“The team is in a different point than it was last year when we
hired Bobby,” Cherington said. “The roster was fairly mature and
we felt, mistakenly in retrospect, but we felt at the time, that we
had a chance to win and the team was ready to win. We’re now at a
different point.”

The first step in rebuilding was on Aug. 25, when Boston dumped
Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett on the Los Angeles Dodgers,
unloading more than $250 million in future salaries. But
opportunities to spend on this year’s free agent market are
considered thin, with Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton and Los
Angeles Angels pitcher Zack Greinke the top targets.

Ortiz is a free agent and coming off a strong but
injury-shortened year. Matsuzaka has reached the end of the
much-heralded six-year, $103.11 million deal that brought him over
from Japan. Ellsbury, a client of Scott Boras, is heading into the
final year of team control after playing just 74 games in 2012
because of injuries.

Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Felix Doubront are
under contract or under the team’s control for next year, and
Franklin Morales could be given a chance at a starting spot. The
bullpen needs depth and bounce-back years from Andrew Bailey and
Daniel Bard.

Although Cherington said last year’s team was ready to win when
Valentine came in, he wasn’t willing to concede that this year’s

“It’s a little bit of a different point in time from a
roster-evolution standpoint,” Cherington said. “So now we’re very
early in the process of doing that and we’re going to work our
tails off to put the best team we can out there in 2013 and build
the next great Red Sox team. We don’t know exactly when that will
come to fruition.”

  (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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