Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/24/12
The easy part is over for Ben Cherington. He finally got the man he wanted all along, bringing John Farrell back to Boston to manage the Red Sox. Now, the general manager has to put a team together that can once again compete for a playoff spot. After a 93-loss season, it won't be easy. But the 2012 Orioles showed us all it can be done, claiming a wild card spot with a 93-69 record just a year after losing 93 games themselves. So how do the Sox go about quickly rebuilding the franchise? I'm playing GM and laying out one possible course of action. This is what I would do to get the team back on track sooner rather than later. In nine easy steps: First, re-sign David Ortiz and Cody RossBoth want to be here. Both actually told us they liked playing in Boston, even during a historically bad season. And both provide some much-needed pop to the lineup. The Sox will undoubtedly have to pay Big Papi more than the market would suggest for a soon-to-be 37-year old DH, but we saw what this lineup was like without him. A two-year, $36 million dollar contract should get it done. There will be a market for Ross, and he'll undoubtedly want three years, so the Sox should offer him $24 million for those three years and see if that does it. It's a nice raise from the one-year, $3 million contract he got last year. Next, sign free agent Torii HunterAt 37, he might not have the speed he once had, and his power has faded a bit. Yet he hit .313 (.817 OPS) with 16 HRs and 92 RBI for the Angels last year, and is one of the best character guys in the game. You want a likeable team? They don't come much easier to like than Hunter. He reportedly wants two years, and will have to take a big pay cut from the $18 million he made last year, but a two-year deal for $20-24 million should get it done. It's a lot of money, but not a long-term commitment. Put him in front of the Monster in left and you've got an outfield of Hunter, Ross, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Not bad. Trade for Justin MorneauI have no idea what it would take to get him, but he's the guy I want at first base. Morneau is due to make $14 million next year in the final year of his contract. You'd think the Twins might be willing to move the salary. He's coming off a down year, but can still get the job done defensively at first. Plus, he's Canadian, which means he has to be a good character guy. Don’t trade Jacoby EllsburyI'd keep the center fielder in town, even if he doesn't want to sign an extension. With free agency looming, he’s bound to have a monster season. I want him to have it in a Red Sox uniform. Jackie Bradley, Jr. can have the job in 2014. Add a starting pitcherI know, this is easier said than done, but you've got to add a pitcher to the mix. You might have to overpay in free agency, but Jake Peavy or Edwin Jackson work for me. Add that arm to a rotation with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Felix Doubront and we might have something going under Farrell. Pick one catcher, trade the otherBoth Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway have their strengths. Keep one, use the other in trade and sign a veteran to backup. Just not Kelly Shoppach. Been there, done that.  Let Jose Iglesias start, but add insuranceIt's time to see what he can do, but let’s bring a veteran in to work with him and play some if needed. Marco Scutaro's available. Don’t overspend on a benchRyan Kalish, Pedro Ciriaco oeven Scott Podsednik could come back and add depth without adding much to the budget.  Build a bullpen out of what you haveHere's a list of names: Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Junichi Tazawa, Daniel Bard, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Clayton Mortensen, Chris Carpenter, Pedro Beato and Rubby De La Rosa. Make something out of it. Here's a lineup under the Caron Plan. Certainly enough pop, and a good mix of lefties and righties: Ellsbury, CFPedroia, 2BOrtiz, DHHunter, LFMorneau, 1BMiddlebrooks, 3BRoss, RFLavarnway, CIglesias, SS There you have it.  This scenario could be done while keeping the payroll under $150 million. Hunter and Morneau are likeable veterans that would add tremendously to the clubhouse chemistry this team has sorely lacked. De La Rosa could be the diamond in a rough, a hard-throwing righty who might crack the rotation or at least give you starting depth. Melancon and Tazawa were impressive at the end of the season, and could challenge Bailey for the closer’s spot if he struggles. I'm sure the 2013 Red Sox will look nothing like this. Point is, you can build this team back into a contender with a handful of moves, and without getting stuck with long-term contracts. You can pass on Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke and still get the job done.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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