BOSTON -- For the second straight year, the Red Sox begin their offseason on the hunt for a new manager.
The search will be spearheaded by general manager Ben Cherington, and it will start immediately. This, after the club relieved Bobby Valentine of his duties following a 69-93 season.
"First of all, we're not prepared to talk about names," said Cherington. "It's too early to do that. We know that there needs to be a bit of a reset with the culture in the clubhouse. We've lost too many games for the last seven months of play, Major League play, so that can have a certain wearing-down effect. We need to revitalize a clubhouse. The manager's part of it. The manager's not the only part of it, but the manager's part of it. We need someone to help us accomplish that. A lot of the qualities that we were looking for last year, we'll be looking for again."
Blue Jays manager John Farrell figures to be at or near the top of Boston's wish list. Farrell, who was the pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007 to 2010, has a year left on his contract. It's all but certain that compensation would have to be worked out with the Blue Jays in order for Farrell's hiring to become a reality.
One person fans will clamor for to succeed Valentine is Jason Varitek, Boston's longtime captain, who retired in February. Varitek was hired as a special assistant to Cherington last week, so it might be a little soon for him to get back into the rigors of a 162-game season.
"You know, we're happy that Jason has joined the organization in the role he's in," said Cherington. "I think he's enjoyed getting some time away from sort of the daily grind of being in the clubhouse for 12 hours a day, and he's expressed to me that that's been good for him. I look forward to working with him in this role for now, and we haven't discussed anything beyond that."
Cherington did say recently that he doesn't want to spend as much time searching for a manager this offseason as he did last year (Valentine was hired on Dec. 1), but he offered no specific timetable.
"No, we'll work hard and judiciously, and we'd like to, of course, rather do it in less time than last year," he said. "We need to find the right guy more than anything."
Last year the Red Sox went with experience in choosing Valentine, but both Mike Matheny (Cardinals) and Robin Ventura (White Sox) have proved that a manager can succeed without it.
With the Red Sox unloading a core of veterans in the August trade with the Dodgers, the team might be more inclined to go with a younger manager this time around.
"We're at a different point in the team's evolution compared to last year. At the time last year, when we made the decision to hire Bobby, we were fully expecting to contend in 2012," Cherington said. "We had a sort of mature roster [and] felt like if some things went our way, and we got some breaks, we had a chance to win. So I think in the end, experience weighed in our decision. It'll still be a factor, but the team is at a different point.
"We'll see, I don't think there's a particular resume blueprint. We've got to get into [the search] and talk to people and just find the right person for this job and move forward."
Without further ado, here is a look at some of the candidates who will likely wind up on Cherington's radar.
Farrell: It's no secret that Farrell still has some big backers with the Red Sox, who wanted to hire him last winter. At that time the Blue Jays had instituted a new policy that prevented employees from leaving to make a lateral move.
However, the Jays are coming off a disappointing 73-89 season. Perhaps the Red Sox could come up with some fair compensation to pry Farrell out of Canada. Last year the Cubs gave the Red Sox pitching prospect Chris Carpenter when Theo Epstein switched front offices.
Farrell has strong relationships with Cherington and assistant GM Mike Hazen, who he also worked with in the Indians organization. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are two players who thrived under Farrell's watch during his years as a pitching coach in Boston. He also enjoyed a close relationship with Dustin Pedroia, so it isn't just the pitchers he's comfortable with.
Tim Bogar: During his time with the Red Sox, Bogar has worked his way from first-base coach to third-base coach and, most recently, Valentine's bench coach. He is known for an exhaustive work ethic and for having good communication with the players.
Bogar also has managing experience, albeit at the Minor League level. In 2006, after guiding Cleveland's Double-A affiliate to the Eastern League Championship Series, he was named Best Manager Prospect by Baseball America. Managing a Major League team would definitely be next in his progression.
Bogar, who has been with the Red Sox since 2009, interviewed for the Astros' post recently and was thought to be the runner-up behind Bo Porter.
Torey Lovullo: Lovullo managed Boston's Triple-A affiliate in 2010, and he earned the organization's respect during that time. For the past two years, he has served as Farrell's first-base coach. He applied for Boston's managerial post last offseason, and there were those involved in the process who felt that his interview was the best of all the candidates.
Joe McEwing: McEwing served as the bench coach for Robin Ventura with the White Sox this season and was said to play a big role in easing the rookie manager's transition. In fact, Valentine also wanted to hire McEwing in that capacity. His reputation as a player was as an overachiever who could not be outworked. Those traits would serve him well as a manager. McEwing finished his playing career in the Red Sox organization, spending the 2007 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Brad Ausmus: The former catcher is considered one of the great baseball minds by virtually everyone he played with, but he recently withdrew his name from consideration for the Astros' post, citing personal reasons. Perhaps a marquee opening like the one in Boston could intrigue him into going for it.
Ausmus currently works as a special assistant for the Padres and is slated to manage Israel's World Baseball Classic team. Ausmus, a native of New Haven, Conn., has New England roots, and he played college baseball at Dartmouth.
Varitek: There seems to be little doubt that Varitek will one day make a solid Major League manager. His baseball intelligence was considered off the charts during his 15-year career with the Red Sox, and he obviously exemplified the leadership traits that would serve him well in the manager's seat. But he has a newborn daughter, and he would probably like to distance himself a little from his playing career before he jumps back into the dugout.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.