Before the final day of the regular season, pitcher Tim Wakefield reportedly said, “I definitely want to come back next year. I have another goal in front of me that I’d like to accomplish, and that’s the all-time record for the Red Sox in wins “

Here’s hoping the Red Sox don’t let him.

It’s time the Red Sox started clearing out the clubhouse.

With that said, here are a few thoughts about next year:

Concerning Wakefield, please end his Near-Retirement Tour now. Boston has no need for an unpredictable pitcher with a 5.12 ERA.

While we’re avoiding sentimental thoughts, the captain also has to go. Jason Varitek, who turns 40 in April, has earned a ton of respect, but he also has a .221 batting average and threw out only 14 percent of those trying to steal.

Ryan Lavarnway isn’t experienced, but he is an improvement in every other way, especially on offense.

Right field is an easy fix. J.D. Drew’s contract is up and two hungry, talented kids are ready to jump in. Let Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick battle for the spot next spring.

Jacoby Ellsbury will be in center for at least two more years, and more if Boston spends the money.

Carl Crawford, under contract through 2017, is in left. Nowhere to go but up, right?

The right side of the infield is set with Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia.

The Sox have a $6 million option on shortstop Marco Scutaro and should pay up. Jose Iglesias, who batted .235 in Pawtucket, is still not ready.

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis has a year left on his contract and an option for 2013. He comes back (hopefully healthy). Will Middlebrooks is probably at least a year away.

Jed Lowry remains a quality backup if he can stay healthy.

David Ortiz, 35, surprised everyone with a productive season. No reason why he can’t contribute for one or two more years.

The starting rotation still has Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz at the top. Looks good (except for some starts last month).

Daisuke Matsuzaka will not likely come back from Tommy John surgery in 2012. Wakefield, as mentioned, should be gone.

And that leaves the $45 million question: What to do with John Lackey, who still has three years on his contract at $15 million per? So far, Boston’s investment in Lackey has resulted in a few wins, no accountability, boorish behavior and a distraction off the field.

Close your eyes, John Henry, and toss that money out the window. Release him or dump him onto some desperate team (with Boston assuming the salary).

Boston will have to scour the free-agent market or make a trade for a No. 4 or 5 starter. There is also the hope that Felix Doubront is ready to be a major leaguer. Maybe Andrew Miller will find the strike zone with more consistency. Junichi Tazawa is a possibility.

As for the bullpen, Jonathan Papelbon will command a high salary. With Daniel Bard’s shaky outings in September, he isn’t ready to close. Pay Papelbon.

Bring back Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks (last year of his contract) and let the others — Franklin Morales, Matt Albers, Trever Miller — compile a list of possibilities.

Also, Kyle Weiland should go to the bullpen. Alex Wilson could be a midseason call-up.

The 2012 Red Sox could be strong, all the way through September and beyond.

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

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Twitter: ClearTheBases