Boston Red Sox Need Off Season of Change to Rebound From Collapse

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 18: Daniel Bard #51 of the Boston Red Sox throws in the eighth inning during a game against the Kansas City .Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 18, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Red Sox won 4-3. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

After a disappointing end to the Boston Red Sox season, everyone knew that changes were coming. Theo Epstein is out and now the president of the Chicago Cubs. Terry Francona is out and now an analyst on ESPN. Now the unlikely pair of Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine are running the team, and further changes must be made.

Step one is near complete with Kelly Shoppach in, and likely the back up catcher going into the season. It signals the end of the Jason Varitek era, something that had to be done. Not to say that they were the problem, but moving on from Varitek and Tim Wakefield is a good thing for the culture change in Boston. Both of those players have been the face of the team for a while, and it has gotten to the point where they are not productive enough to stay with.

The pitching staff is going to need a revamping. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz should return as the top three. After that, who is there? Daniel Bard is going to be a starter in spring training, but how will that work out? Other internal options could be Felix Doubront, Kyle Weiland, Michael Bowden or Alfredo Aceves. Do they need to go outside the organization?

Gio Gonzalez has been a name that has been brought up several times. The Red Sox could probably get him for a package of Josh Reddick, Weiland and maybe Jed Lowrie. Gonzalez would add another left handed option to the bullpen, and he will team controlled for four more seasons. If the Red Sox could pick him up, it would be a big bolster to the rotation.

Other options are possibly John Danks of the Chicago White Sox or free agent Roy Oswalt. Oswalt is older but could take a two year deal. The problem with that is the luxury tax that the Red Sox feel they need to stay under. That leaves free agents Hiroki Kuroda and Joe Saunders. One of those two is the more likely possibility.

Then that leaves the closer question. There have been some ideas of the Red Sox nabbing Andrew Bailey and Gonzalez with a trade with Oakland, but then they would have to surrender Will Middlebrooks and maybe Anthony Raunado. Are they still in on Ryan Madson possibly? If not for those two options, the Red Sox may have to make Bard the closer after all.

At other positions, it seems like they are rather set except for right field. As of right now, it seems like Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish will be the guy. Or they might sign someone like Ryan Spilbourghs or they might get involved in the running for Michael Cuddyer.

We cannot forget that thought the Red Sox collapsed, they finished with the best offense in the American League. With most of the same team coming back, it is pitching that has to be addressed.

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