The 2010 Red Sox have the biggest payroll in the history of the franchise. With just 13 games gone, it’s still much too early to consider the team’s offseason signings a bad investment.

That said, Red Sox Nation hasn’t seen much of a return on that $168 million.

The Sox looked overmatched by the young, inexpensive Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. What’s worse, they looked flat. Newcomers like Mike Cameron, Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall misplayed routine balls, allowing the Rays to run wild. the time John Lackey left the game in the fourth inning Monday, the crowd was letting Hall know it had seen enough. And they weren’t talking about Lackey.

All winter, Red Sox fans worried about a lack of offense from the team this season. They debated the merit of run prevention over run production. Could the Red Sox make it to the playoffs by winning 2-1 games all season?

While it’s early, the answer so far is no. The Sox, as expected, haven’t scored many runs. With 50 runs after Monday’s game, they were 10th in the American League in that category.

As bad as the offense has been, it’s been worse in the clutch. When Hall flied out with men on second and third to end the fourth Monday, he extended the team’s hitless streak with runners in scoring position to 0 for 30.

And there are even bigger concerns. Boston’s heralded RPU (Run Prevention Unit) has not lived up to its billing. The Red Sox began Monday’s game with a fielding percentage of .980, fourth lowest in the league. In the first two games of the series with Tampa, Sox starters didn’t give up a single earned run. Yet the Rays scored one run off Josh Beckett and four off Clay Buchholz, all in innings triggered by errors.

This team wasn’t expected to live up to the offensive legacy of past Boston teams, but the expectation coming into the season was that this unit would play fundamental baseball. It might not have the Yankees’ offense, but it was expected to keep games tight and win with pitching and defense.

The pitching hasn’t lived up to expectations, either. The ERA after Sunday’s loss was 4.29, fifth worst in the AL. Even the three pitchers at the top of the rotation were off to disappointing starts. Beckett’s 3.86 ERA was fine after two strong starts, but Jon Lester (8.44) and John Lackey (5.63 after giving up eight earned runs in 31/3 innings Monday) hadn’t done enough to calm the fears of Red Sox fans.

Still, no one seems too worried about those numbers remaining bad all season. It’s the sloppy baseball we’re seeing from Boston. The Sox have been running into outs at an alarming rate — the decision to send Kevin Youkilis home with no outs in the sixth inning of a tie game Friday night (he was out by 5 feet) was the low point.

Of course, we might look back on this in October and laugh. The Yankees had a losing record at the end of April last season and went on to win the World Series. The newcomers, including third-base coach Tim Bogar, may simply be finding their feet.

Or, it might be something bigger. We’ve seen good players in the past unable to make the transition to the bigger stage — and greater pressure — of Fenway Park. Edgar Renteria was never able to get comfortable here and was shipped off after a year. The Sox are still paying Julio Lugo.

“You’ve got to play good,” said Dustin Pedroia over the weekend. “You’ve got to hit the ball good. You’ve got to play good defense. You’ve got to pitch good.

“If you don’t start doing that, we ain’t going to be good. We ain’t going to be a playoff team, I’ll tell you that.

“We’ve got teams that want to kick our (butts), so we’d better come out and play better.”

Two weeks does not make a season, not by a long shot. But first impressions are hard to overcome, and Sox fans have not been impressed by the start this group has put together.

 

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.