The Red Sox want free agent Mike Napoli back in Boston, and Napoli similarly wants a return. However, it's not as cut-and-dry as getting an offer and signing it, as Napoli will reportedly "shop around" after receiving a multi-year contract offer from the Red Sox, according to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan.
It's not time to panic: Napoli could simply be seeing if he can squeeze one more year out of someone else, or if the desperation of another club can be measured in dollars. This is precisely why the Red Sox protected against the loss of Napoli by attaching a qualifying offer, and therefore draft pick compensation, to the first baseman: anyone who wants to pry him from Boston has to give up their first-round pick to do so.
If you were wondering why the Red Sox have an interest in outfielder Carlos Beltran, though, this is one reason why. Should Napoli bolt, first base is suddenly open, and the platoon of Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes could slide there, leaving left field open for Beltran. The free agent outfielder would cost the Red Sox their first-round pick, but Napoli's exit would give them a replacement, anyway, leaving Boston just about where they were both in terms of draft position and budget, only with Beltran in tow rather than Napoli.
Napoli hit the free agent market one year ago sans qualifying offer, and the best he could do was a one-year deal with incentives following the discovery of avascular necrosis, a degenerative hip condition, during his physical. Before that, he had agreed upon a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox. With the lack of power and first basemen available on the market, he might be able to approach that once more, but it's all up to whether or not clubs are willing to part with their first-round pick to get him.
As of this writing, the only team known to be interested in Napoli outside of the Red Sox is the division-rival Orioles, who could use a significant upgrade at designated hitter.