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Blue Jays make things tougher for Ben Cherington

For Ben Cherington and the Red Sox, a tough road back to respectability could be even tougher.

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For Ben Cherington and the Red Sox, a tough road back to respectability could be even tougher.

AMHERST — Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington knew the Marlins had players on the trade market. But like everybody else in baseball, the magnitude of the team’s deal with the Blue Jays surprised him.

“Wasn’t expecting to see that,” Cherington said Tuesday night after learning the Jays were on the verge of acquiring John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Jose Reyes for a large package of prospects.

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The American League East sent the Yankees and Orioles to the playoffs last season with the Rays finishing three games behind in the wild card. Now the Jays have made an aggressive move.

For the Red Sox, a tough road back to respectability could be even tougher.

“We have a plan for the offseason and we’ll see how much of it we can execute,” Cherington said. “If [the trade] does happen, it’s not going to change what our plan is or our ability to execute that plan.”

Cherington joined fellow general managers Chris Antonetti (Indians) and Neal Huntington (Pirates) at a panel discussion on Tuesday sponsored by the UMass-Amherst Isenberg School of Management.

The trio, all graduates of the sport management program, discussed their experiences before a crowd of 750 at the Campus Center Auditorium.

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When asked about the most difficult moment of his career, Cherington smiled.

“I’m still trying to get through it,” he said, referencing the Red Sox going 69-93 last season and finishing in last place.

That drew a laugh from the audience. But what transpires in the coming weeks will determine how successful Cherington is at getting through a crisis.

The Red Sox could have their own deals to make. There is an agreement in place with catcher David Ross that is contingent on his coming to Boston for a physical. Once that is finished, the Sox could deal either catcher Ryan Lavarnway or Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Cherington did not want to comment at length on how obtaining Ross would change the roster until the deal is completed.

“If we were to acquire and sign a catcher, we’re really just trying to strengthen the position,” he said. “We know that we lost 93 games. We’re trying to strengthen all areas of the team, not just the ones that seem more obvious.”

While Toronto may not spur the Red Sox into changing their plan, it could change how aggressively they pursue the players they want.

Mike Napoli is sending signals of his willingness to play first base, a position of need for the Sox.

“I just want to play,” Napoli told ESPN Dallas. “I feel the most comfortable behind the plate because that’s where most of my reps have been. Do I think I can be good at first base if I had reps and practiced it all the time? Yes. But it’s not like I’m saying I have to be a catcher. I just want to be in the lineup and play. If it helps at catcher, I’ll catch, or at first base, I’ll play there. But I like catching. I look at myself as a catcher.”

Texas did not extend Napoli a qualifying offer, meaning he would not come at the additional cost of a draft pick.

The Red Sox also are in the process of completing their coaching staff. Cherington said that minor league hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez interviewed for the hitting coach position on Tuesday. Cherington said two other candidates could be interviewed later this week.

The Red Sox also have spoken to former Arizona Diamondbacks hitting coach Rick Schu.

The Sox also hope to select a first base coach this week.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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