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The Boston Globe

Sports

Dan Shaughnessy

Moves in the right direction

I don’t know about you, but I just love these Red Sox “tickets on sale now” marketing campaigns.

Remember the winter of 2010-11? That one was, “We won’t rest until order is restored.’’

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As memorable slogans go, that one was right up there with, “It’s called Bruins.’’

Now we have the winter of 2012-13 and the Red Sox public relations machine is in overdrive. B-level players are being acquired for A-plus money and the Sox plant (false) stories that they are in the running for every available player.

The ball club held “Christmas at Fenway” last weekend, Wally went to City Hall on Thursday, and the Sox’ new marketing theme is . . . “Next Year Is Looking Brighter Already.’’

Not a lofty goal, is it? After the 2012 train-wreck season (“2012 Red Sox” and “train wreck” are forever joined, like “tundra” and “frozen”), anything would look brighter.

Still, I am buying.

That’s right, people. This nattering nabob of negativity is happy to see the Red Sox overpaying for the likes of Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, and David Ross (there’s no truth to the rumor that Ben Cherington was walking about Nashville saying, “three-year, $39 million contracts for everybody!”).

These new faces are believed to be “character” guys. Victorino, Napoli, and Gomes are legitimate big-league ballplayers who have played on the biggest stage. They represent an improvement over the people in the pitiful lineups submitted by goofball Bobby Valentine in September 2012.

Bobby V was right when he talked about the Sox having the weakest roster ever in September in the history of baseball. At least Victorino, Napoli, and Gomes are major league ballplayers.

And at least John Farrell is a respectful major league manager — an adult who will resist the urge to blurt out everything that comes into his head.

Everybody around here felt good after the Sox clubhouse was purged of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford last summer. Ownership was relieved of $261 million in future payroll. But the team Boston fielded in September was a joke. The Sox are not dumb enough to believe fans would be OK paying the highest prices in baseball to watch nine Pedro Ciriacos throughout the 2013 season.

Do I care that the Sox overpaid for Messrs. Napoli and Victorino? Do I care that the Sox gave David Ortiz a two-year contract (a.k.a. lifetime achievement award) when Ortiz had no bidders for his services? Not a bit. It’s not my money.

The myth of the megadeal with the Dodgers is that it somehow made things better for Sox fans. It does not. I take no comfort knowing that John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino are out from under their future payroll burdens. It doesn’t do fans any good unless the Sox reinvest that money for more players.

I also love the fact that Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury have been the subject of trade rumors.

Let’s start with Lester. He needs to know that the Sox initiated talks with the Royals. He needs to stop being surly and entitled, and go back to being the pitcher he was when he first came to the big leagues. I like Lester being a little uncomfortable with the notion that he is no longer untouchable. This is good.

Ellsbury is one of the Sox’ best players, but we all know he is gone at the end of next season. The Sox might get only 40 cents on the dollar now because Scott Boras is not going to let Ellsbury sign a contract extension with any new team, but dealing Ellsbury is not a terrible idea. Not if the Sox are building for the future.

Building for the future. There’s the issue. If the Red Sox are building for the future, they should be all about scouting and player development. They should admit that they will be terrible this year and get on with their future. They should save their money for better free agent classes.

But it’s hard to do this in Boston. Fans deserve a real major league lineup and a chance to win every day. We did not have this in September 2012.

There’s also the crazy idea that in a 15-team league in which five teams make the playoffs . . . in a division that features a slumping, aging Yankee team . . . the Sox could contend for a playoff spot in 2013.

Why not? The Orioles flipped things in a single season. The Sox have a core of starting pitching, and if everything went just right, they could contend.

This is folly, of course. The Sox’ pitching has been dreadful for the last 200 games, and they have done nothing to address mound woes this offseason.

But I’m still saying that Ben Cherington had a pretty good week in Nashville. The Sox are less boring than they were last week. They have some real major leaguers. They are telling us that “next year is looking brighter already.’’

And, like Charlie Brown approaching the football, I am buying.

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