By Friday at 5 p.m. the Red Sox have some decisions to make. But, in reality, there's only one.

The Red Sox have six players who will become eligible for free agency at midnight Friday: DH David Ortiz; outfielder Cody Ross; starting pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook; first baseman James Loney, and reliever Vicente Padilla.

To receive draft picks as compensation should any of the players sign elsewhere, the Red Sox must first present a "qualifying offer'' to potential free agents.

Players then have seven days to accept or decline.

Unlike past years, teams cannot offer their own free agents the opportunity to go to salary arbitration. (The Red Sox did exactly that with Ortiz last year and eventually arrived at a compromise salary of $14.575 million for 2012.)

The only option under the new collective bargaining agreement is to present a qualifying offer of $13.3 million -- regardless of the player. (That figure represents the average salary of top 20 percent of players in the game in 2012).

While presenting such an offer ensures compensation, it also carries some risks.

In the past, the risk was that a player coming off a big salary and an off-year would accept arbitration and win a big raise. Now the risk is the $13.3 million salary, regardless of the player.