Four years ago, midway through his final spring training as manager of the Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox stood on the field before a game and joked that the only times he ever regretted his decision to retire were when he watched Jason Heyward take batting practice.

“It’s like, ‘What the (expletive) are you thinking?’ ” said Cox, placing his hand on his head for emphasis as Heyward put on another power display so ridiculous and typical that the Braves had to install protective netting in front of the staff parking lot beyond the right field bleachers at their ballpark in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. “He’s a special kid.”

Back then, Heyward was the consensus top prospect in baseball and, at age 20, the Braves’ Opening Day right fielder. He was baseball’s “Next Big Thing” before Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado or Yasiel Puig was tagged with that label, carrying the burden of impossible expectations on his broad shoulders.

And now, he should be the Red Sox’ next right fielder.

For all the fantasizing — and right now, that’s really all it is — about the Sox using their inventory of prospects and a few big leaguers to pull off a blockbuster for Giancarlo Stanton, there still isn’t any indication the Marlins are ready to trade their slugging MVP candidate and the most popular pro athlete in Miami since LeBron James took his basketball and went home to Cleveland.

In time, the Marlins likely will be ready to talk. After all, Stanton is headed back to arbitration and could see his 2015 salary rise to $15 million. And forking over the $200 million or more that will be required to lock up the 24-year-old to a long-term deal would be out of character for owner Jeffrey Loria.

But Stanton also isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. With ace Jose Fernandez due to return next year from elbow surgery and an emerging group of young hitters, including outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, it makes more sense for the Marlins to take one shot at the division crown in a winnable NL East before unloading Stanton.