As Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz waited for a contract offer last fall, general manager Ben Cherington went through what he describes as a careful risk assessment — weighing a proven record of production against age and a recent history of injuries.

He had to set aside, for the moment, the fact that this was the most popular player in recent team history.

“You take Big Papi out of the equation, take the franchise icon out of the equation, take out all of the things he’s done for us in the past,” said Cherington. “And you start with: Who is this player now?”

In that harsh light, Ortiz was a 37-year-old DH dealing with a slow-to-heal Achilles’ tendon injury. But for much of the disastrous 2012 season, Ortiz was also “highly productive in a way that didn’t look a fluke” and “didn’t look like a guy who was declining as an offensive force,” according to Cherington.

Last November, the Red Sox signed Ortiz to a two-year, $26 million deal, with a bigger payday due if he stays healthy.

“When you have a guy David’s age, you can’t completely eliminate risk,” said Cherington. “That’s not possible with baseball players, certainly not with ones in their late 30s. But despite his age, there’s no one we would bet on to produce at DH in 2013 more than David Ortiz.”

So far, it seems to have been an extremely smart bet. After missing the first few weeks of the season nursing sore heels, Ortiz has produced home runs and RBIs at an impressive clip. He is, by a clear margin, still the most productive player at his position.

Like Cherington, all team executives go through some version of this risk assessment when acquiring or re-signing older players. The process is both objective and subjective, weighing performance against cost, age against experience, injury history against intangibles such as locker room presence.

Executives for Boston teams know this better than most. In recent years, Cherington, Celtics president Danny Ainge, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, and Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach and de facto general manager, have faced key contract decisions on veteran stars. The big names securing big deals included Ortiz, Tom Brady, Kevin Garnett, and Zdeno Chara.