The Boston Red Sox begin spring training workouts this week while waiting to see what punishment Major League Baseball will hand down to former manager Alex Cora. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Play ball. Please.

Never have the Boston Red Sox so desperately needed to get on the field and play. A tumultuous, depressing offseason finally comes to an end Wednesday morning when pitchers and catchers take the field in Fort Myers, Florida, for their first workout of the season.

Athletes often say getting on the field is the best way to block out the noise of what’s going on off it. And there has been no lack of noise this offseason.

The Red Sox spent the last day before the first players reported to camp still officially in search of a manager. Reports surfaced late last week that it would be bench coach Ron Roenicke, but that the team was hoping to get the results of the Major League Baseball investigation into alleged sign stealing before it made the announcement.

The lack of a manager didn’t bother fans as much as the trade sending Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers for outfielder Alex Verdugo along with prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

Getting a player named Jeter in the deal only irritated Sox fans even more. And they were plenty irritated as it was, with one of the game’s best players moving on.

Most baseball evaluators said the Red Sox did well in the deal, and that holding out for more in the wake of Brusdar Graterol’s troubling medical reports worked out in their favor. Downs is a top infield prospect, and Wong is an athletic catcher who can play multiple positions.

What the Red Sox didn’t get in return is pitching help. And with Price included in the deal, they are dangerously low on starting depth. One would expect the team to address that issue in the coming weeks.

The Red Sox weren’t the only team in the news over the winter. The Houston Astros had even tougher issues when they were penalized in a scathing MLB report into their own cheating scandal. And over the weekend, things got worse as the Wall Street Journal reported that Houston’s front office may have been far more involved than the MLB investigation had led us to believe.

That report took a little of the onus off Alex Cora, the Red Sox’ former manager who “parted ways” with the team after he was named in the report. It’s hard to paint Cora as the mastermind of the Astros system if the entire baseball operations group was involved in code-breaking.

Cora will still get penalized from the Astros report. That much is sure. What we don’t know is whether or not he will face additional discipline after the investigation into Boston. If he doesn’t, the team may want to consider bringing him back after his suspension if that penalty is one season or less.

Bringing Cora back could bring the Red Sox a little bit of good will after a winter of discontent. But it won’t help them this summer. The 2020 Red Sox will try to return the playoffs without their marquee player and without a former Cy Young Award winner who had a terrific first half in 2019 before injuries plagued him.

The Red Sox won’t be picked to win the AL East this season, but they still have enough offense to be a playoff contender if the pitching staff stays healthy. We’ll be watching for signs of that as Grapefruit League games begin in just over a week.

Best of all, we’ll be watching baseball. Some of us will be lucky enough to do it in the Florida sun, trying to avoid getting sunburned. That’s a welcome change after an offseason that had the hot stove burning out of control.

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

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