The Red Sox just signed Shane Victorino to, presumably, be their right fielder, as that's the only place open on the diamond. While he's a decent fit for that position, his bat makes him an even better fit in center field. Jacoby Ellsbury is there for now, though, at least for one more year. That is, unless he's traded, and that's something Boston is apparently willing to do in the right deal. Peter Abraham:
Sources: #RedSox are open to idea of trading Ellsbury, playing Victorino in CF and signing C. Ross or another RF. Keeping doors open.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 5, 2012
Victorino's natural fit is center field, and he'd likely go there in 2014 even if Ellsbury were kept around for 2013. At least, if Jackie Bradley wasn't ready yet, or Boston treated him like they did Ellsbury and used him on the corners until a spot opened permanently in center. Cody Ross on a three-year deal for $25 million isn't appealing, but Ross for two years at $16 million or so isn't bad at all, as it keeps with the plan of keeping competitive without blocking anyone, and brings back a productive clubhouse guy. It's all about the price with him, though, as his upside isn't quite what Victorino's or Mike Napoli's is, so that third year is a bit more of a problem.
Having Ellsbury around in 2013 would be just grand, even if he's more like the pre-2011 Ellsbury. But, at the same time, with only the lone draft pick from a qualifying offer as the compensation for losing him, there's reason to move him now if the plan is already going to be to just settle for that pick, rather than extend him. Or, to put it another way, B.J. Upton just got five years at $75 million without ever having a season like Ellsbury's 2011. Dude is going to get paid when the time comes, even if he's not that guy again in 2013.
What Boston would get back is more of a question, but a look at the outfield market this off-season tells you that the likelihood of getting something shiny is higher than you would have expected even a month ago. Teams are willing to pay for players, and if the Red Sox go out and dangle Ellsbury in the same market Shin-Soo Choo is currently overpriced in, positive things could happen. They won't now unless they give it a shot, and since they don't have to make a deal, it's okay if they back out and go with the current outfield setup.
It's likely they'll move quick on this, though, before someone like Ross is off the market entirely. The window on this kind of thing is short, so don't be surprised if rumors start to pop up before the winter meetings conclude in two days.