Two weeks from today, nearly three dozen Red Sox pitchers and catchers will be in Fort Myers, bracing for their first spring training workout. And shortly thereafter, predictions will begin to roll in.

Not even the Mayans would be so bold as to call the Sox a playoff team.

Ben Cherington respectfully disagrees.

"I believe we will contend," the Red Sox general manager said Thursday in a sitdown with the Herald. "There is no reason we shouldn't contend in 2013. But we also want to build something really good for a long time. We're confident we will."

Cherington understands the skepticism. The Sox haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2009, and since then, the infamous September collapse of the "Best Team Ever" in 2011 and the 93-loss nightmare of the one-and-done Bobby Valentine Era last year have served only to shake the organization to its core and disillusion its most ardent rooters.

An ownership group once lionized for bringing an end to an 86-year championship drought by funding two World Series winners in a four-year span has been accused of prioritizing marketing campaigns and TV ratings over smart baseball decisions. And after an offseason filled with the addition of complementary players rather than big-name stars, there's little public confidence that the 2013 season will end any more successfully than the past three.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Red Sox will enter spring training unburdened by lofty expectations, the usual hype replaced by a touch of apathy.