BOSTON – The rain poured on Fenway Park Sunday. With no more games here for a week, the grounds crew did not bother to put the tarp on.

What this 100-year-old venue needed was a good cleansing.

“It’s been a tough week,” Boston Manager Bobby Valentine said. “Let’s hope this is a good psychological day for us.”

On one hand, it’s too bad the Red Sox could not play Sunday night against the Yankees, getting a chance to move on from Saturday’s disastrous loss, in which a 9-0 lead turned into a 15-9 defeat.

Then again, maybe it’s best that the team gets out of town. The Red Sox begin a seven-game trip tonight with an 8 o’clock game in Minnesota.

Jon Lester will start tonight, as Daniel Bard’s spot in the rotation will be skipped. Bard will be available in the bullpen.

Bard is still scheduled to start Friday in Chicago.

“As the plan is now, he is our fifth starter,” Valentine said.

But these Red Sox need to make some kind of change, right? Can Boston fans expect anything different from this team that has put up a 4-10 record so far?

To answer that, Valentine donned his rose-colored glasses.

“I kind of like this team,” he said. “When you’re 4-10, it’s not easy to say everything is going perfectly.

“I think the players are good players, high quality, who are going to win a lot of games.”

How so?

“We obviously are going to pitch better,” he said.

And where is the proof of that?

“We’ve had some good starts. And we’ve had some good relief appearances,” Valentine said. “When you see the good, you think that it can be replicated. I don’t think it’s a fluke.”

Not to point toward the empty half of the glass, but there have been some bad starts, and a whole lot of terrible relief outings.

Maybe it’s reasonable to assume a rotation of Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and Bard will perform better as a group.

But that bullpen?

Last year, Boston’s bullpen was anchored with Bard in the eighth inning and Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.

Papelbon left for riches in Philadelphia, and Bard became a starter.

“All teams want defined (roles) in the bullpen,” Valentine said. “We don’t have the luxury of past performance to designate these roles, so we’re working on it.”

The onus on General Manager Ben Cherington was to rebuild the pen. He traded for closer Andrew Bailey, who has a career 2.07 ERA, but he missed one month to injury in 2010 and two months in 2011. This year, he will miss at least half the season after surgery on his right thumb.

Mark Melancon was acquired in another trade and was expected to be the eighth-inning guy. It looked like a good deal, but Melancon has lost his command and got pounded in his four appearances, giving up five homers and 11 runs in a total of two innings. He is trying to fix things in Pawtucket.

The only dependable holdover from last year’s bullpen, Alfredo Aceves, has been anything but this year — a 24.00 ERA, with opponents batting .400 against him.

“We came into the season with a lot of decisions, and we still have a lot of decisions we have to make,” Valentine said. “I think guys are going to make those decisions easier as the season goes along.”

This is a good time to return to Valentine’s previous comment about Bard being a starter “as the plan is now.”

“Now” could be for the rest of this month.

Aaron Cook, 33, is a pitcher with a history of injuries, but he is looking healthy in Pawtucket (2-0, 1.35 ERA in 20 innings over three starts). Cook has an opt-out clause in his contract if he’s not promoted to Boston by May 1.

Cook has made one relief appearance since 2004, and with his injury history, it’s unlikely the Red Sox would put him in the bullpen. If he’s added to the rotation, someone will have to go to the bullpen.

Guess who?

Then there is the matter of Daisuke Matsuzaka. He begins a rehab assignment tonight in Salem (and could be in Portland by next weekend). If all goes well, he will be in Boston in a month.

More help is on the way, as left-handed reliever Rich Hill is finishing up his rehab stint with Pawtucket. So is Andrew Miller, but his ability to contribute is in question until he consistently commands his fastball.

Maybe Valentine has reason to be optimistic.

The manager said he is not content, however, even if Cherington gave him a vote of confidence Saturday night.

“I’m not satisfied with the job I’ve done,” Valentine said. “I don’t need to hear from Ben or ownership or fans or anyone else. I’ve got to do better.

“The record is the only thing a manager is judged by. I don’t accept four wins in 14 games.”

Without a better bullpen, he may never be satisfied.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases