I had heard about a provision in Lackey's contract that would enable the Sox to keep him for one additional year at the Major League minimum due to the year lost to elbow surgery. Can you shed any light on that?
-- Henry C., Albany, N.Y.
Yes, you are correct. The Red Sox now have Lackey under control through 2015. That final year at that price could be a steal if he is healthy and pitching effectively. In other words, it could help make up for last year, when Lackey wasn't able to throw a pitch during the season.
Do you think Felix Doubront will take the next step in the pitching progression this year?
-- Nick S., Lee, Mass.
I don't see why he wouldn't. Doubront gained invaluable experience last season and logged 161 innings, a professional high. This is the season the Red Sox would like to see him reach that 200-inning plateau and prove that he can hold up over the rigors of a long season. In order to do that, Doubront needs to be more consistent. He has the stuff to be a quality Major League starter. Now we will find out if he has the mental toughness and durability.
With Joel Hanrahan closing and Andrew Bailey tagged as the setup man, what role do you envision for Daniel Bard in 2013 and beyond?
-- Ali M., London, England
In a perfect world, Bard recaptures his mechanics and repertoire and earns the role of seventh-inning stopper. A seven-eight-nine combo of Bard, Bailey and Hanrahan could be dominant, but it's hard to say if that will happen. It's really hard to know just what you will get from Bard until Spring Training starts and you see how his stuff measures up against opposing hitters. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they have some really good bullpen depth. There's no reason Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can't be terrific setup men in the seventh inning, and on days Bailey or Hanrahan are unavailable, the eighth and ninth also.
Do you see the Red Sox signing another impact outfield bat before the offseason is over to pair with Johnny Gomes?
-- David D., Jacksonville, Fla.
At this point, I think they will go to camp and see what they have. Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava should have the chance to prove they can platoon with Gomes in left. This is the type of area the Red Sox can upgrade during the season if they aren't getting the production they need.
What do you think about Shane Victorino playing right field in Boston? I'm not sure if he's a reliable option, because he played center the most of the time in his career and I'm not sure if his arm is what you need for that position.
-- Felix Manuel R., Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Fenway's right field is like no other in baseball. In some ways, with all the ground there is to cover, it's the equivalent of playing center in a lot of other parks. With Victorino's Gold Glove resume in center, he could be a perfect fit to play right for the Red Sox.
The general consensus seems to imply that Jacoby Ellsbury will leave Boston as a free agent next year or possibly get traded this winter. Why does there seem to be no possibility of him staying with the Red Sox for a long time?
-- Seth H., Brooklyn, N.Y.
First of all, the Red Sox hope that their center fielder of the future is Jackie Bradley Jr. If Bradley is ready for the Majors in 2014, it would coincide perfectly with when Ellsbury is eligible to be a free agent. Also, have you ever heard Ellsbury come out and say that it is his goal to be in Boston for the rest of his career? Ellsbury has always been very quiet on the subject, leaving it open for interpretation.
Kyle Lohse is a talented free-agent pitcher, yet he is still on the market. Is he on Boston's radar?
-- Jack C., Lebanon, Pa.
The longer a guy like Lohse stays out there, the more you wonder if there might be a fit for Boston. I suppose it all comes down to how much his price drops. One thing the Red Sox have going for them is a strong working relationship with agent Scott Boras. I have a feeling Lohse will wind up somewhere else, because I'm not sure the Red Sox still have the payroll flexibility to pay him what he might be looking for. But I wouldn't rule it out entirely.