BOSTON (AP) – Two general managers, no shortstop.

That’s one of the problems the Boston Red Sox face this week as they turn from front office reshuffling to rebuilding their lineup.

Up first is finding a shortstop to replace Edgar Renteria, signing Johnny Damon or replacing him and deciding whether to trade left fielder Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox spent five weeks replacing Theo Epstein as general manager, deciding on Monday to split the job between two of his former assistants: Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington. But having a committee of four in charge at baseball’s winter meetings last week didn’t exactly slow them down.

Since Thanksgiving, the Red Sox have pulled off two major trades, sending four prospects to Florida for pitchers Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota, and third baseman Mike Lowell, then trading Renteria to Atlanta for third base prospect Andy Marte. They also traded backup catcher Doug Mirabelli to San Diego for second baseman Mike Loretta.

After the annual baseball bazaar ended, the Four Horsemen were winnowed to two. The unconventional platoon will split the job up according to their strengths, with Hoyer working on major league deals and Cherington concentrating on player development.

Neither returned phone calls on Tuesday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Ramirez has about $57 million – $12 million of it deferred – remaining on the eight-year, $160 million contract he agreed to five years ago. He has asked to be traded, but few teams can take on his deal without the Red Sox eating some of his salary.

Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, started out asking for seven years and $84 million, and the Red Sox opened with an offer around four years and $40 million.

“We continue to talk to Scott,” Hoyer said Monday. “With Manny, if we can work out a trade, fantastic, but we will only do something that will make sense for the Red Sox.”

The Red Sox are one of the few teams in baseball with too much pitching – for now, at least. They have at least six starters under contract, with Jonathan Papelbon ready to step into the rotation or the bullpen.

But Curt Schilling hasn’t yet bounced back from the ankle injury that has hobbled him since the 2004 playoffs, David Wells has asked to be traded closer to his West Coast home, and Matt Clement only pitched well for half a season.

So the Red Sox aren’t ruling out a return of Roger Clemens, who pitched the first 13 years of his career in Boston, winning the first three of his six Cy Young Awards and as many games in a Red Sox uniform as Cy Young himself.

Team president Larry Lucchino said the team has contacted Clemens’ agents about bringing the future Hall of Famer back to the town he left in 1996, as then-GM Dan Duquette said, “in the twilight of his career.” No formal offer was made.

“We just wanted to plant a seed and tell him it would be a storybook way for him to end his career,” Lucchino said. “But it’s completely up to him.”

Of course, the biggest name on the Red Sox radar isn’t a player at all: The team has had discussions with Epstein about bringing him back. It’s not clear what role he’d have, whether it would be above or below his former assistants and what’s changed since he turned down a $4.5 million offer to stay as GM for three more years.

“We do talk to Theo on a regular basis. We’re good friends. I think it sort of stops there,” Hoyer said, noting that he also talks to former assistant GM Josh Byrnes, who is now the GM in Arizona. “So it’s really been in that nature that I talk to Theo.”

Lucchino said the team would “keep a light on” for Epstein’s possible return, but said it was premature to talk about what role the former GM would have.

“If there’s a fit,” Lucchino said, “we’d like to see it happen.”

AP-ES-12-13-05 1918EST

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