I’ve spent the better part of the last month worrying about a Manny-less Red Sox team. Even more unsavory is the thought of a Johnny Damon-less team.

I’ll admit it: With his book, TV appearances, canoodling with well-breasted actresses, high teas and secret meetings with Kissinger, I penciled Damon in to be 2005’s biggest disappointment. But, as faithful readers of this blog will tell you, I know nothing. You see, money is a true motivating force, and on the precipice of a free-agent year in which he stands to make a boatload of it, Johnny put up the numbers. At times, it was almost ridiculous how much he was hitting — a veritable on-base machine, setting the table for the big guns and always doing something to make us overlook the fact that Dakota Fanning has a better arm.

If anything, the guy became even more endearing to the local masses throughout 2005, establishing himself as a true gamer and a cult hero. Sadly, most of these good vibes will likely melt away over the next few months, when Johnny will be courted by everyone from George Steinbrenner to Aaron Spelling.

Will he be with us in 2006? I’m not so sure, but we can count on two things:

First, Damon’s agent, the reprehensible Scott Boras — a guy just behind Bin Laden and the cast of Friends on my list of folks most deserving of a lead-pipe beating — will turn this into a dog-and-pony show of the highest order. Smokin’ wife or no smokin’ wife, ain’t nobody gonna give Jesus the seven year deal Boras is seeking, so let’s assume — or, rather, hope — that reality soon takes hold. And while we’re at it, praying that Boras gets his nuts chewed off by zebras wouldn’t hurt, either.

Second, if Johnny does pack up and leave, our front office faces two Herculean tasks: replacing not only our centerfielder but arguably the league’s best leadoff hitter. Nevermind Ortiz losing the protection of Manny in the line-up, who’s the guy gonna knock in? Edgah? Dave Roberts? You’d have better luck turning tree sap into beer, my friends. And I’ve tried. Trust me, I’ve tried. And beyond the hits, the dude’s got ka-ras-ma — one of the characters that makes this team so much fun to watch. Christ, we’re already losing Lenny and Squiggy [AKA Millar and Manny]. Don’t we want to keep The Big Ragu around?

Last offseason, we knew we had to sign Varitek. This offseason, we have to sign Damon. Like, before he gets out on his “what can your city offer me?” world tour.