The Red Sox made up their mind last week that Dustin Pedroia was worth keeping in the fold for good.
They have one more decision to make on one more homegrown core player one more choice to make on another contract that could keep that player here for the foreseeable future and perhaps through the back nine of his career.

On the cusp of free agency Jacoby Ellsbury according to so many you talk to these days seems to be a lock not to re-sign with the Red Sox. The case against him signing up for what could turn into his first and only long-term contract one that could take him into his late 30s seems to be lock-tight in the favor of one of the other 29 teams.

The Red Sox after all already have a player with what looks like a similar skill-set in rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. as well as veteran Shane Victorino another Ellsbury comparable who is still signed through 2015.

The Red Sox after all still cringe at the memory of Carl Crawford another Ellsbury comparable whose signing here for a seven-year $142 million contract before the 2011 season wound up as the unflattering symbol for the Red Sox’ foolish foray into big-name free agents the last couple of years an errant path the club careened onto and since corrected in favor of younger homegrown prospects and strategic short-term pacts with free agents.

And the Red Sox after all are aware that Ellsbury is the client of Scott Boras viewed by some as one of those agents who only steers his clients to greener pastures.

So after all that why even bother exploring the worthiness of the Red Sox re-signing Ellsbury?
The answer is because the Red Sox may have more reasons than you think to prefer life with Ellsbury than without him.

Bradley the spring training sensation who broke camp with the club has been playing well at Triple-A Pawtucket (and remains the best excuse the Red Sox have to view the re-signing of Ellsbury with less urgency than their potential competitors for his services). Not as fast as Ellsbury Bradley has a better arm and arguably has superior defensive instincts that allow him to take surer and more direct routes on fly balls and line drives. Offensively his power potential likely does not project as high as Ellsbury’s but as we have seen this year Ellsbury’s pop will likely fluctuate greatly for the rest of his career. Bradley’s potential then is pretty high maybe even as high as Ellsbury’s. Surely the Red Sox would be willing to gamble that Bradley will continue to develop into a player nearly as dynamic as Ellsbury.

How safe of a bet is that really? Beginning last year and stretching into the early part of this season there were plenty of people convinced that Will Middlebrooks was on a George Brett-like trajectory. That flight plan is on hold a bit. With the exception of the Mike Trouts Bryce Harpers and Manny Machados of the baseball world a rookie’s career path seldom takes on an uninterrupted bell-curve trajectory. For the sake of this argument let’s assume that Bradley (also a Boras client) will become an Ellsbury-like performer. That could take a couple of years. Maybe three. In the meantime the Red Sox could still have Ellsbury for two to three more years playing at his peak — he turns 30 in September — and then as Ellsbury heads into his mid-30s face the issue of Bradley and Ellsbury competing over who should play center or who should lead off.