INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — For years, the Red Sox  have been one of the most prominent destinations for free agents. The team’s mix of large payrolls and perennial contender status has created a natural draw for players on the open market, whether they are seeking short- or long-term deals.
This year, that equation is a bit different. With the Sox having finished last year with a 69-93 record, players in the late stages of their careers who are seeking the best opportunity to win a championship have reason to wonder whether Boston is the most likely place for them to do so. Sox GM Ben Cherington acknowledged as much on Thursday at the GM meetings.
‘It’s a question and it’s a fair question. It’s one we haven’t had to answer in most offseasons and I think you answer by telling people that you rely on the track record here and the commitment from ownership to put a lot of resources into the team and the reality that this is Boston,” said Cherington. “We’re going to build a team as quickly as we can. There’s not a two-, three-, four-, five-year plan. The conventional thought amongst players and agents is that Boston will work as hard as they can to be competitive, but sure we have to talk about it more this offseason than we have in past offseasons.’
Cherington acknowledged that the Sox have considerable amounts of work to do before they can claim to be contenders once again.
‘It’s more than health. We’ve got to add talent and players wins games more than anything else. We need more talent on the roster,” said Cherington. “Certainly there are other things we can do better or get better breaks on, such as health and things like that. Those things matter and those things will help. We’ve just got to build a better team and that’s the bottom line. … We’ve got plenty of work to do. We’ve got to add to the outfield. We’ve got to figure out first base and we would like to add to the rotation. There’s plenty of work, yeah.’
‘It’s got to improve,” Cherington said. “We have to add to it to be the type of offense that we need to have to be good over a six-month season. We’ve got to add to the lineup.’
Given that reality, even while Cherington is working to convince free agents that the Sox are doing everything they can to compete next year, he’s also trying to measure public expectations about whether the Sox might contend in 2013.
‘I think how I feel is that fans in Boston are sort of tired of hearing how good we are in the winter and we just have got to be good, build a team that wins and does the right things and a lot of that is the players on the roster, that’s the focus right now and do the best we can to build a team this winter and when we get to spring training it will shift towards our players are here and how do we put them in the best position to win,” said Cherington. “Enough’s happened, I think people are tired of hearing how good we may or may not be, we’ve just got to get to work and build the thing up.”