Any day now, the Red Sox [team stats] will begin the delicate dance of gauging how much it will take to free manager John Farrell from the final year of his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, the first order of business in what figures to be a hectic offseason.

But it won't compare to their impending waltz with Jacoby Ellsbury [stats].

Contractually, at least, the Red Sox control Ellsbury for one more season, leaving them obligated to do nothing more than repeat the arbitration process and give the center fielder another one-year raise from his $8.05 million salary before he reaches free agency.

That would be the shortsighted course of action.

The Red Sox surely will consider a multiyear extension for Ellsbury, but his value isn't easily determined. His agent, Scott Boras, points to 2011 as proof of Ellsbury's potential as an MVP-caliber "franchise player" capable of being a top-of-the-order catalyst or a middle-of-the-lineup run producer. But what about 2010 and this season, when he missed considerable time with injuries and raised questions about both his durability and his willingness to play when he isn't feeling 100 percent?

Still, Boras knows Ellsbury would draw considerable interest as a free agent, especially because fellow dynamic center fielders Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen are under contract through at least 2017. Curtis Granderson also can be a free agent after next season, but Ellsbury is two years younger and lacks the personal baggage that Josh Hamilton will lug onto the open market this winter.