The winter meetings are just over two weeks away. Free agents are signing contracts. Trades are being made. And the Red Sox have no GM to get in on the fun. Not only that, but it is starting to look like candidates don’t even want the job.

This does not bode well for the 2006 season. Shortstop is the only infield position locked up, Damon is testing the free agent waters, Manny and Wells are demanding trades and both ends of the pitching (ace and closer) are question marks.

Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but are we being set up for a rebuilding year? Is the front office going to patch the holes with second-tier role players until the youth movement is ready? The idea is certainly a possibility. Red Sox brass have the built-in excuse of Theo’s exit to account for free agents being missed out on or trades being made or not made. It is a scary thought to consider a non-contending season, even with the promise of 2007 and all of the homegrown talent waiting in the wings.

Matsui signing with the Yankees sets the bar pretty high for Johnny Damon and Scott Boras. Clearly, three tens does not get that deal done. Speculation had Mike Cameron being a key player in any deal involving Manny and the Mets. Cameron is now being swapped for Xavier Nady (pending physicals) and prospects are all Omar has left to give us.

The longer the Sox go without getting a legitimate GM in place, the less chance we have of fielding a team to compete in the AL East. The Yankees are reloading, Toronto is planning on increasing payroll significantly and Tampa Bay has a good young team that is probably a couple of pitchers away from an 80+ win team. Can anyone conceive picking up a sports page next September and seeing the Red Sox in fourth place behind NY, Toronto and TB?