FORT MYERS, Fla. — You never want to be the man replacing The Man.

John Farrell avoided that when he was hired by the Boston Red Sox two winters ago. He replaced Bobby Valentine, who had the misfortune of replacing Terry Francona. Under Valentine, the Red Sox posted their worst record in almost five decades.

Farrell replaced Valentine after that one regrettable season, in 2012. That was infinitely easier than replacing Francona, who led the Sox to two championships and is widely acclaimed as the greatest manager in team history.

Over the weekend Farrell received an extension from the team through the 2017 season (with a club option for 2018). This helps avoid any distractions that could be caused by a manager entering the final season of his contract. It was a statement from Red Sox ownership that the former pitching coach is still the right man for the job, even after a two-year stretch that has seen the highs of a 2013 championship and the lows of a last-place finish in 2014.

“We want him to be here for a long time,” said General Manager Ben Cherington.

Few managers get to stay with a team for “a long time.” Francona is the standard future Sox managers will be compared to – and only made it eight years. Farrell enters his third season with a team that is expected to contend in the American League East, but one that has a lot of questions surrounding it.

The biggest questions involve the starting rotation, which has only one pitcher remaining from opening day last season. That pitcher, Clay Buchholz, has yet to prove he can stay healthy enough to be considered a true No. 1 starter.

The lineup will be bolstered by the additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but Farrell is already answering questions about a brewing battle in right field between veteran Shane Victorino and 22-year old phenom Mookie Betts.

He also has to figure out what to do with Allen Craig, a major part of two pennant-winning teams in St. Louis but a man who is presently without a job in Boston.

These are the type of personnel issues that can divide a team. Here in Florida there have been no such issues. At least not yet. Farrell has done his best to be transparent with players, telling them what jobs they are competing for and mapping out their workloads here at Fenway South.

It is the type of communication that makes him a strong manager. The type of communication that Francona was known for.

“You’ve got to be able to handle difficult situations with honesty, with integrity,” said Cherington.

“You’ve got to be accountable. You’ve got to have credibility, respect from all those different people that you’re working with, and John has the ability to do all those things.”

Farrell did those things when he took over for Valentine in 2013. He inherited a dysfunctional clubhouse and quickly restored order, turning a team that won just 69 games in 2013 to a champion in 2014. “Worst to first!” was the cry throughout Red Sox Nation.

Last year it became worst-to-first-to-worst as injuries and inexperience saw the team plummet to a last-place finish once again.

Cherington believes he has rebuilt the team through trades and free agency. He wants Farrell to be at the helm.

If Farrell stays with Boston through his option year he’ll be just two years shy of the length of Francona’s tenure. At his best, Francona had an uncanny ability to shield his players from the craziness of Boston. Farrell’s bosses think he has the same traits. Now he’ll need them to guide this team back from its second last-place finish in three years.

“We don’t take for granted one moment what the expectations are and how we have to deliver on those expectations,” Farrell said.

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.