Cyber Monday. It’s an annual tradition that has us all logging on and cashing in to whittle away at our holiday shopping list.

Dave Dombrowski won’t be going to Amazon or any other website to fill his wish list this season. Dombrowski, president of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox, will be shopping the old-fashioned way: haggling face-to-face and over the phone to find the right item at a price he can afford.

Last year, Dombrowski had a simple checklist, adding an ace pitcher (David Price), an elite closer (Craig Kimbrel) and a veteran outfielder (Chris Young). The trio helped lead the Sox back to the playoffs after two consecutive last-place finishes.

This year’s list is much smaller, but in some ways is much more complicated.

The team’s biggest need, of course, is a designated hitter to replace David Ortiz. Dombrowski could go in a number of ways to fill the spot.

Landing a premier slugger like Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista would cost north of $100 million. As good as both players are, do the Red Sox really want to tie up that much money for four or five years? Encarnacion would certainly make a big splash, but Dombrowski has intimated that the team will be a little more low key in its offseason pursuits.

As we’ve written in recent weeks, Carlos Beltran could be a much more reasonable (in years and money) alternative to fill the spot. Boston also could have a glut of corner infielders with Pablo Sandoval and Sam Travis returning from injuries to join Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw. They could rotate some or all of those players through the DH spot.

Dombrowski also must decide if he’s happy with the starting rotation. There are increasing signs the Chicago White Sox would be willing to deal ace Chris Sale for the right price. That price would be incredibly high and would cost the Sox multiple young players, including part of its major-league ready core (goodbye, Andrew Benintendi).

Would Dombrowski overspend to bring a 27-year old pitcher at the top of his game and under contractual control for the next three years? We’ve all overspent for that perfect gift in the past, haven’t we? You couldn’t blame the Sox for dreaming of a rotation led by Sale, Price, and Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.

There are other stocking stuffers that Dombrowski needs to pick up along the way. Two, maybe three relievers to help bolster the bullpen. Those gifts won’t get the “oohs” and “aaahs” of the bigger items, but they are the type of purchases that round out the season nicely.

This weekend, Dombrowski and baseball operations leaders from the other 29 MLB teams will descend on Washington, D.C., for the annual winter meetings. These are usually the place where teams start to fill out their offseason needs. Last season, Dombrowski had already added his Big Three by this time.

This year’s offseason shopping is off to a slow start, complicated by the industry’s lack of a collective bargaining agreement between major league baseball and its players’ association. It officially expires at midnight Thursday. There have already been whispers of a lockout, although no one really thinks there would be a work stoppage in this era of unbridled prosperity. Would they really shut down a $9 billion industry?

That’s doubtful, but teams will be handcuffed until they know the framework for this winter’s free-agency period. What is the luxury tax threshold? How much revenue-sharing will big-market teams have to deal with? Will there be changes in international free agency?

These questions will have to be answered before we start to answer what next year’s Red Sox roster will look like. So the shopping spree is on hold until the game’s spending budget is set.

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


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