In the strongest sign yet of which way they are leaning before the trade deadline, the Mets have engaged the Red Sox on Zack Wheeler, The Post has learned.

The talks were described as in the early stages and that Boston is not the only club with whom the Mets are discussing Wheeler.

One comfort the Mets would have in dealing with the Red Sox is knowledge of their farm system. Until this year both Mets VP/assistant GM for scouting and player development Allard Baird and VP of player personnel Jared Banner held instrumental baseball operations roles with Boston.

Going into the final five games of the first half against the Yankees and Phillies, a Mets official had described those and the three after the break against the Marlins as a last determination if the club should sell. The Mets went 2-3 in those games so far, experiencing even more bullpen malfunction. The official described the Mets as realistic to their plight even as they were hoping to avoid being sellers.