Boston Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski gave his first offseason news conference last week.

If you read between the lines, you see that former general manager Ben Cherington did a decent job putting this club together.

But there are major problems, and that’s what Dombrowski has to deal with.

Those concerns are the need for an ace, a bullpen overhaul and the ongoing question: What to do with Hanley?

Hanley Ramirez is the Red Sox first baseman, Dombrowski said – even though Ramirez has never played at first and won’t play winter ball because of injury concerns.

So, we are supposed to believe that Ramirez will show up in spring training ready to start at a position he’s never played? This after the grand experiment in 2015 of having Ramirez play left field – where he was deemed by statistical gurus as the worst fielder in the major leagues at any position.

Is that right, Dave?

“We’re committed to it,” Dombrowski said. “I believe he’s committed to it. … Will it work? Time will tell.”

Believe? Dombrowski can’t say anything for certain about Ramirez’s commitment. And he’s not foolish enough to predict results.

It’s only October so what’s he supposed to say?

We know how Ramirez played the good soldier last winter, arriving early to spring training to work out in left. But once the season began, Ramirez seemed to think that more work was not necessary (or maybe useless).

Ramirez is a natural infielder, so he might adapt to first base better than left field. But he is also stiff, whether from age or bulking up. Defense can be so vital – ask the Texas Rangers after their seventh-inning meltdown in Toronto on Thursday. Boston can ill afford to give away outs because Ramirez can’t scoop a bouncing throw.

So here’s what Dombrowski wanted to say: We’re committed to Hanley because we have no choice. We would love to trade him but that involves eating a lot of the $66 million left on his contract, as well as finding a general manager willing to gamble that Ramirez can switch positions (the last GM to gamble on that is now unemployed).

On the topic of an ace pitcher, Dombrowski said he’s “looking for that one guy that maybe can be your horse if you can get him.”


The Red Sox had a horse in Jon Lester but didn’t want to give a long-range deal to a pitcher over 30 years old (Lester is 31). Left with no ace and a bunch of mid- to back-end starters, the results were not pretty.

The top free-agent starters, David Price and Johnny Cueto, will be 30 before next season. There is the chance Dombrowski goes for a blockbuster deal (Matt Harvey? Sonny Gray?), but he will have to stack up the trade chips.

So if we might read between the lines of Dombrowski’s take on a horse: Unless ownership realizes that big arms cost big money – or a lot of prospects (or both) – there’s no ace walking through that door.

The big project for Dombrowski is the bullpen, because much is needed after ranking 26th in the majors with a 4.24 ERA.

The Red Sox have the Japanese duo of Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, but relying too much on them means trouble. Dombrowski has some in-house candidates for depth (Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes and down the road, maybe Pat Light), but he also needs a late-inning guy who can back up as a closer. Joe Kelly, the inconsistent starter with the big fastball, may be an answer. Who knows?

Dombrowski: “I’m open to trades. I’m open to free agency. I’m open to hard throwers. I’m open to basically all of them. Where that’s going to take us, I don’t know.”

Translation: It’s a mess.

NOTES: Dombrowski also offered that mega-prospect Yoan Moncada will likely start next season at advanced Class A Salem, at second base. But a good showing in winter ball and spring training may push him to Portland. … The replacement for fired first-base coach Arnie Beyeler will be an “external candidate.” So much for my speculation on Kevin Boles or Billy McMillon.