USA Today Sports
What will the Red Sox do next year? I don't know, but we can at least guess at what people will say about it.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, the 2013 Red Sox roster is mostly set. There may be some movement around the edges, but what we see today is very likely what we'll get when pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers in six weeks. Of course that doesn't tell us how the season will turn out. That's what projection systems are for! No, just kidding, that's what the games are for. So if it's answers you're looking for we're going to have to wait a while.
However, there is one thing we can do now: figure out what the storylines will be after what happens on the field happens. We may not know how the season will turn exactly, but we can probably figure out what people will say to any number of possibilities.
Red Sox Win 100+ Games
Predominant Storyline: John Farrell is a genius. His preternatural ability to arrive on the scene and immediately fix all problems present will be sought the world over. He'll give speeches, receive awards, and stop along the street to help teach old ladies to throw the cutter. Later he may opt not to wear pants. Depends what he's feeling like.
Minor Storylines: Clubhouse culture matters. After the el foldo in 2012 and the firecracker of a season in 2011 (went along fine for a while before exploding into a million pretty colors at the end), the Red Sox brought in almost* exclusively high character guys. Character breeds winning. Of course, in the case of the '03-'04 Red Sox, character bred mold and a relatively severe rodent problem, but then as now beggars can't be choosers.
*I say almost because of the mid-season trade for noted fruitcake-filled gift-basket giver Derek Jeter.
Red Sox Win 94-100 Games
Predominant Storyline: The return of the great Red Sox teams of the mid aughts. Jon Lester is Curt Schilling (minus the whole bilking state governments out of millions of dollars thing)! Clay Buchholz is Pedro Martinez only with worse hair! Stephen Drew gets injured during Spring Training and the Red Sox run through shortstops like Spinal Tap drummers, including one who actually does spontaneously combust during the fifth inning of a May game in Kansas City. (Intense bar-b-que is blamed.) You'll know the transformation has taken hold when Mike Napoli shows up on NESN with bleached tips smelling of Jack Daniels.
Minor Storylines: Daniel Nava was cut, optioned, re-signed, re-optioned, re-cut, re-re-cut, re-re-cut-cut, and still made the team out of Spring Training.
Red Sox Win 90-93 Games
Predominant Storyline: The operations of GM Ben Cherington who took an over-paid, immovable mess and, within one season's time, turned it into a contender in the toughest division in baseball. Just a couple moves over the off-season will surely vault the team over the top. The sell-out streak continues! Pink hats for everyone!
Minor Storylines: The steadfast leadership of John Farrell who never once called out one of his own players to the media, claimed he had invented the cheeseburger, or mountain biked away upon completion of an interview. Other things Farrell didn't do: appear on his regular radio show in New York, call out a player to the media, pull a player two strikes into an at-bat, or call out a player to the media.
Red Sox Win 82-89 Games
Predominant Storyline: Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes. The media will call them The Young Guns because that one isn't taken, or Generation X, or The Killer Bees and we'll all be treated to badly photoshopped pictures of their heads pasted on bee bodies by some pseudo-clever blogger and/or marketing company. Young star players (and marketing companies) are nothing without a hackneyed nickname. A lesson taught us by Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson who you no doubt know as "Generation K" or, alternately, who? Remember: Stupid nickname = Success!
Minor Storylines: Shane Victorino: Funny guy! Did you see that thing he did? Or that other thing? The one at that place with the stuff? Ha!
Red Sox Win 81 Games
Predominant Storyline: ".500? [angrily] .500! .500? [resigned] .500... oh well... at least we aren't [worse team], right?"
Minor Storylines: David Ortiz just might be a Hall of Famer. Dustin Pedroia just might be a Hall of Famer. Will Middlebrooks could maybe one day be a Hall of Famer. Jim Rice shouldn't be a Hall of Famer.
Red Sox Win 75-80
Predominant Storyline: Better. Buuut stiiiilll... FAILURE! The Red Sox used to have really expensive players who weren't that good on very long term contracts and they didn't win games. Now the Red Sox have moderately expensive players who aren't that good on moderately long term contracts and they didn't win games. Grrr! Fan smash!
Minor Storylines: Injuries might be a part of the game but why are they a bigger part of the game for the Red Sox than seemingly every other team in all of professional sports? The Red Sox reorganize their medical staff. This time doctors must wear white coats, head mirrors, and end each meeting by waiving a cookie in the player's face and saying in a high pitched voice, "Take two of these and call me in the morning."
Red Sox Win 63-74
Predominant Storyline: Sellers! That's right it's Craaaaaaaaazzy Ben Cherington! He'll sell you a shortstop, he'll sell you a closer, he'll sell you a catcher, he'll sell you bucket of doots! He'll sell you legs off his desk! Don't want the right legs? No problem! Take the left ones! He'll do it because he's craaaaaaaaaaazzzy.
Minor Storylines: The end of Jon Lester's career came suddenly and without warning. Well, without warning assuming you don't consider September 2011 and all of 2012 qualify as warning.
Red Sox Win 62 or Fewer Games
Predominant Storyline: The operations of GM Ben Cherington who took an over-paid, immovable mess and, within one season's time, turned it into a different but equally over-paid, immovable mess. Just a couple moves over the off-season will surely be made by a different general manager.
Minor Storylines: I play the lottery because I can't possibly be wrong all the time about everything.