Free agency has started, and the goal is to strengthen your team without suffering "The Winner's Curse". Overpaying for players who had exceptional years or who are likely at the downhill crossroads of their career can put a franchise in 'jail' for years. The Red Sox have suffered the consequences of poor judgments on Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo, yet benefited from correct reads on Jason Bay (six homers this season for the Mets).
Money always comes onto or off the payroll. After this year's loss of interest in the injured and underachieving Sox, there's a perception that the Sox "must" be a big player to regain media attention and credibility. Does Sox upper management have its collective eyes on the ball, or are they more concerned with diversifying the empire via NASCAR and soccer?
As far as the numero uno free agent on the market, Cliff Lee, don't expect the Red Sox to be chasing him. They've got Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, as well as numerous prospects. They're far more likely to spend the money on bat, with major holes to fill at catcher, first or third, and a need for an outfield power bat. The other issue is whether Jed Lowrie deserves a shot at the everyday shortstop job, and the implications for Marco Scutaro and Jose Iglesias. Lowrie has filled the Tim Naehring designated injury slot, but hit exceptionally well when healthy.
Sox fans could easily live with bringing Beltre back and Jason Werth in, but the likelihood of signing multiple Boras clients after the Teixeira fiasco seems remote. A trade for Adrian Gonzalez would strip the farm system (e.g. Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and more) and require something in the 22-25 million dollar a year money range to satisfy his contractual expectations. Obtaining a Paul Konerko (first), while moving Youkilis to third still leaves the need for an outfield bat, and neither Carl Crawford or Werth will come cheap.
What the Sox expect from Mike Cameron remains to be seen, but last year's 8 million dollars went down the drain. The Sox failure to develop power hitters is coming back to bite them, and the fans aren't likely to wait for Rizzo or Ryan Lavarnaway.