The minute Mark Teixeira signed on the dotted line with the Yankees, Boston's top offseason priority shifted from bolstering the middle of their order to finding a starting catcher. Teixeira was a unique commodity on the free agent market, but the Red Sox don't need a corner bat like they need a steady catcher.
Incumbent Jason Varitek is a free agent, and despite possible acrimony over the way agent Scott Boras handled the Teixeira sweepstakes, Boston is continuing to talk to him about a potential return, according to the Boston Globe. There has been very little interest in Varitek, the catching market -- whether in trade or free agency -- is weak and for the sake of continuity it may make sense for both sides to reunite.
On the other hand, the Red Sox seem to be sending out signals that they'll go in a different direction. The team is close to a non-guaranteed deal with Josh Bard. He had a short, unsuccessful stint in Boston in 2006 and an abysmal season last year, hitting .202 in 57 games. But he also posted the highest line drive rate of his career in 2008, and also the second lowest batting average on balls in play, suggesting he's a good bounceback candidate.
In the story about the Bard signing, Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald noted that team officials have "all but given up" on re-signing Varitek. That leaves the Red Sox still short a catcher. They could turn within the organization. Though Dusty Brown and George Kottaras don't profile as future stars, both had solid seasons at Triple-A this year.
They could also look to another veteran free agent to platoon with Bard or consummate one of the long-rumored trades with Arizona or Texas.
No matter what, the Sox have options and a real need to improve at backstop now that the offensive improvement they had hoped for at first and third base isn't going to materialize. All those factors point away from Varitek, who looks more likely to fall further off a cliff next year than to regain the form that made him one of the most valuable catchers in the majors for the better part of the last decade.