We are now just two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting--three from the mandatory reporting date for all players. On February 21, the Red Sox will take part in the traditional trouncing of the Huskies and Eagles, and two days after that we'll have Red Sox vs. Rays as the team starts the long run to the real starting line.

Right now these dates (along with next week's Truck Day, depending on how invested you are in that sort of thing) are circled in bright red on our mental calendars. Come March 9th we'll all be banging our heads against the wall wondering when oh when it's finally going to end. Spring training is one of those things that is better anticipated than experienced, especially when you're stuck up here in the cold, bitter north relying on snippets from reporters and the occasional broadcast to give a taste of that warm weather and the crack of the bat.

Still, while spring training can quickly frustrate, there's a delightful insignificance to it. None of the games matter, and while bad performances can prove to be signs of doom--just ask Carl Crawford--there's a level of comfort knowing how often a player is terrible in Fort Myers and terrific in Fenway. All that goes away come April, and for the last couple of years, that has not been a good thing.

Expectations for the Red Sox are low. There are many of us who are cautiously optimistic that the team can contend, but plenty who are writing the year off, and few who are so removed from reality that they can claim the Sox are in any way favorites, be it for the East or the wild card. The level of competition is high--perhaps higher than ever before--and this team is not a world-beater like the 2011 team seemed to be heading into the season. All this should serve to cushion the blow should the Sox not measure up in the long run. We know what this year is: a toss of the dice with little risk, and relatively little chance of reward.