After a blockbuster deal yesterday that sent slugger Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers in exchange for outfielder Jason Bay, the Boston Red Sox and its fans are left to wonder what will happen next year.
Perhaps it's too early and a little foolhardy -- it always is with Manny -- to guess what decisions will be made by the beginning of the 2009 baseball season, but there's a good chance the Sox could see the enigmatic slugger back at Fenway Park next year.
According to details of the trade, Manny reportedly agreed to be shipped to Los Angeles on the condition that the Red Sox drop the two one-year options the team held on his contract for 2009 and 2010.
Leaving the options in place would have meant the Dodgers could keep Manny there for at least two years, but the left fielder's demand indicates he likely will be a rent-a-player for the rest of this season and won't return there next year.
Also, the Dodgers already have a crowded outfield with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones, and Juan Pierre getting considerable playing time. None of those players can provide the pop in the lineup Ramirez can, but they all are younger and less expensive than Manny will be next year.
So, that brings us to this question: Where might Manny end up in 2009? One option that could bring heartburn for Red Sox Nation is that he could end up patrolling left field in the Bronx.
That's right, the Yankees.
The options previously included in Manny's contract each were worth $20 million, according to reports. Certainly, agent Scott Boras would push for even more money when the season is over.
There are only a handful of teams with cash reserves large enough to sign a player worth that much. One of the teams just dealt him to the Dodgers, and the other one is in the Bronx.
The Yankee outfield is pretty thin now, too. Johnny Damon is currently the club's starting left fielder, and Manny would almost certainly be considered an upgrade over Damon at the plate.
Manny also grew up not far from Yankee Stadium in Washington Heights.
So, while the Red Sox are happy to have Manny gone and other rival teams are breathing a collective sigh of relief, it is possible he could return to the AL East next year.
You have to believe Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner already is salivating.