Worst to first? No sweat. The Red Sox have done it before — and only last year. Surely, general manager Ben Cherington has this thing down to a science by now.

So, why does the task in front of him seem so much more daunting this time?

In 2012, it was as much a cleansing as a rebuilding. The Sox rid themselves of manager Bobby Valentine, pried John Farrell back from the Toronto Blue Jays and filled the clubhouse with players known as much for their character as their talent. Cherington waded into free agency and went 7-for-7, an impossibly perfect offseason considering the imprecision involved in building a winning team.

But David Ortiz was about to turn 37 then, not 39. Dustin Pedroia was coming off one offseason surgery on his hand, not three in a row. And Jon Lester was still here to take the ball every five days. So although the Sox had just lost 93 games, they had a well-established core around which Cherington could place Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, David Ross, Ryan Dempster and Koji Uehara.

Yesterday, in a 40-minute press conference at Fenway Park on the day after the last-place Sox concluded a 91-loss season, Farrell mentioned Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rusney Castillo and Christian Vazquez as core players for 2015 and beyond. Think about that: The Sox plan to climb back into playoff contention while building around two soon-to-be-22-year-olds, one of whom (Betts) doesn’t have a clearly defined position, a $72.5 million Cuban center fielder who has played 10 games in the majors and a rocket-armed catcher who nevertheless batted .240 with a .308 on-base percentage in his first 55 big league games.

They still have Ortiz, of course, but the list of 39-year-olds who have reached Big Papi’s typical 39-homer/.875-OPS heights includes only …read more