When the Red Sox arrived at the GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif., without a general manager of their own, it was more than understandable. Theo Epstein had resigned his position just a week before the start of the meetings and finding a replacement in such a short time frame was out of the question.
Now, however, the Red Sox are about to report to the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Dallas, and they still don't have a general manager on board.
Jim Beattie, the clear choice of CEO and team president Larry Lucchino, met with Lucchino for a third time Thursday night. But according to baseball sources, chairman Tom Werner and principal owner John Henry are less enthusiastic about Beattie.
Beattie's first interview for the job came three weeks ago. If ownership believed him to the be the best choice, isn't it logical to assume he would already be on the job?
Without a full-time GM, the Red Sox will head to Dallas with a group effort, led by Lucchino himself. The same team which tried to go with a bullpen-by-committee in 2003 is now, for the time being anyway, operating with a general manager-by-committee.
Joining Lucchino will be three members of the baseball operations department which represented the Sox at the GM meetings -- special assistant Jed Hoyer, farm director Ben Cherrington and director of international scouting Craig Shipley.
(Peter Woodfork, another special assistant who was part of the contingent in California, has since left to join former Red Sox assistant general manager Josh Byrnes in Arizona).
Lucchino and the baseball operations staff will be joined by special advisers Bill Lajoie and Jeremy Kapstein, whose roles have grown in the absence of a full-time GM.
To a man, members of the Red Sox front office maintain that they can operate efficiently, even without a titular leader.
"It's business as usual," declared Kapstein.
Lucchino, whose management style is notoriously hands-on, will lead the contingent, and will oversee the club's two biggest issues in Dallas -- possible trade of Manny Ramirez and negotiations with free agent outfielder Johnny Damon.
Lajoie, who has more than 50 years invested in the game and was Epstein's most-trusted talent evaluator, will lend his expertise and mine his many contacts. If Lajoie were so inclined, he might be the logical successor to Epstein, at least for a year. But at 71 and having survived a medical scare, he does not wish to live in Boston full-time and wonders if the job hasn't become too demanding, given his age and health.
Kapstein's experience also should come in handy. One of the first agents on the professional sports scene, he's an expert negotiator with plenty of friends throughout the game.
Since Epstein left, Hoyer has become the point man in the organization in dealing with agents.
Cherrington will be asked to provide background and scouting reports on the team's own prospects, as well as those of other organizations, while Shipley, a former player, will be leaned on for talent evaluation.
One opposing GM wonders: "If you want to make a deal with Boston, who are you supposed to talk to?"
Answer: Any or all of them. Negotiations and trade talks will be a group discussion. That's the case with most clubs, as it's common for several members of a front office team to participate in talks. One-on-one negotiations are rare.
Said a Red Sox source: "I think we're fine for the time being. We made the [Josh] Beckett trade [with Florida] and [not having a GM] wasn't an issue. We can continue to operate this way next week.
"Sooner or later, we're going to need someone to lead the way. We've lost people [to other teams and resignations], and someone needs to hire new people to replace them. But for now, we'll be fine."
Not that they have any choice.
Sean McAdam of The Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.