The plan, of course, was for Bard, the converted reliever, to occupy one of those spots, but Bard hasn't taken to the role thus far, and the organization may be losing patience. Aceves is cut from a similar cloth, in that he's a reliever who lacks the profile for a successful conversion to starter. Still, his very limited exposure to the role (a 4.18 ERA in nine career major-league starts) may give him an edge. So, provided they don't ride Bard to the bitter end, what then? Cook? While he's impressed this spring, there's little reason to believe he can both stay healthy and post an ERA better than 5.00 for an entire season.
As for Doubront, the lefty is out of options, so he's almost certainly going to play a role of some kind on the Boston 25-man. If Andrew Miller isn't ready for opening day (a distinct possibility), then Doubront could function as the second lefty out of the pen. If Miller's healthy, however, then it's doubtful that manager Bobby is going to want three left-handers in the bullpen. The Sox likely won't need a fifth starter until April 24, and Miller figures to be back by then. So the roster crunch might force Doubront into the rotation as the fifth man. The problem, though, is that none of the projection systems is especially bullish on Doubront in 2012.
It's one thing to fill the five hole with one of these guys, but it's something else entirely to populate 40% of the rotation with the underwhelming likes of Bard, Cook, Aveves, or Doubront. That goes double in the tough-as-burlap AL East. Little wonder, then, that the Sox are keeping tabs on the market.
While most scuttle surrounds Roy Oswalt, it's Gavin Floyd who makes the most sense for Boston. Unlike Oswalt, Floyd is ready to pitch now. He's also younger, has value beyond 2012, and has quietly been a model of consistency over the last few seasons.
The larger point, though, is that the Red Sox's rotation is woefully thin right now (let's not forget that Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz have somewhat troubling health histories), and they lack in-house solutions. At some point, a bold move by the front office is probably going to be necessary.
Failing that, you bide your time until Daisuke Matsuzaka is healthy. While Dice K is unfairly viewed as a flop by many observers, is anyone in Boston comfortable with leaning heavily on him and his reconstructed elbow down the stretch?