Asked last month at the general managers meetings to handicap the odds of Jacoby Ellsbury [stats] getting traded before spring training, one major league source declared it highly unlikely, noting that the Red Sox [team stats] already were in the market for two outfielders.

Circumstances have changed.

By agreeing yesterday on a three-year, $39 million contract with Shane Victorino, and by signing Jonny Gomes for two years and $10 million last month, the Red Sox have increased their outfield depth. They're still searching for a starting pitcher, and thus far, they have found the free agent market to be "steep," general manager Ben Cherington said.

One industry source said the Sox have only "medium" interest in right-hander Ryan Dempster, and although they talked to right-hander Dan Haren, they were unwilling to match even the one-year, $13 million deal he received from the Washington Nationals.

"Sense of the pitching market?" manager John Farrell said yesterday, a smirk crossing his face. "It's always a rich one for the pitchers."

So, it seems as likely as ever that the Sox will satisfy their pitching need by making a trade. Earlier yesterday, a major league source said the Chicago White Sox are willing to deal right-hander Gavin Floyd, and their need for a catcher may make them a sensible trade partner for the Red Sox, who have catchers to spare.

But the Red Sox could think bigger by dangling Ellsbury, who may net a more significant return. It's a plausible scenario. Victorino has the arm to play right field, but he's a three-time Gold Glove center fielder. And a few viable outfield options remain on the free agent market, including Cody Ross.

A few factors worth considering:

1. Because Ellsbury is coming off an injury-interrupted season in which he batted .271/.313/.370 with four homers and 26 RBI in only 74 games, his value is far less than it was a year ago when he was runner-up to Detroit ace Justin Verlander in the AL MVP balloting. Are the Red Sox really willing to sell low?

2. Ellsbury is eligible for free agency after next season, and because he's represented by agent Scott Boras, it's unlikely he will discuss a contract extension. Thus, Ellsbury would appeal only to a contender that believes it's one piece away from improving its chances of winning the World Series. The Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians missed out on signing Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, respectively, but neither is likely to make a move for Ellsbury, who would amount to a one-year rental. Here again, the market for free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton may come into play. If the Texas Rangers, for instance, don't re-sign Hamilton, they may be willing to trade for Ellsbury. The Philadelphia Phillies are still looking for a center fielder, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. isn't inclined to move lefty Cliff Lee, according to a major league source, especially because of the uncertain health of co-ace Roy Halladay.