The Red Sox have little more than two weeks to complete negotiations with C Jason Varitek, not without running the risk of losing the player for all of April (not to mention the chance he’ll reach an agreement elsewhere). The Globe’s Gordon Edes reports.

The window for signing free agent catcher Jason Varitek grew smaller last night when Varitek declined the team’s offer of salary arbitration. Midnight last night was the deadline for free agents to accept or decline arbitration.

The Sox retain the right to negotiate with Varitek until Jan. 8. If no deal is struck by then, the club would not be allowed to negotiate with him until May 1.

“We talked with [general manager] Theo [Epstein] last week and talks are ongoing,” said Varitek’s agent, Scott Boras (above). Asked if an agreement was imminent, Boras said, “Talks are ongoing.”

Boras said another of his clients, free agent pitcher Derek Lowe, also declined arbitration, as expected. With the Sox having signed Edgar Renteria to play shortstop, Orlando Cabrera, who was paid $6 million last season in a contract he signed with the Expos, also declined arbitration.

In fact just three of 41 major league free agents offered arbitration by their teams accepted.

The others (with 2004 salary in parentheses) offered arbitration by the Sox who declined: Pokey Reese ($1 million), Mike Myers ($550,000), David McCarty ($500,000), and Pedro Astacio (September call-up). Pedro Martinez and Gabe Kapler were two Sox arbitration-eligible free agents who signed elsewhere — Martinez with the Mets and Kapler with a Japanese team.

The most interesting case involved Varitek, who was paid $6.7 million last season and reportedly has asked the Sox for a four-year, $44 million deal, with the team offering in the range of $36 million. The Sox undoubtedly would have welcomed Varitek taking arbitration, which automatically would have made him signed for 2005. The sides could have continued to negotiate a long-term deal, or Varitek could have taken the club to arbitration and been expected to be paid in the neighborhood of $9 million-$10 million in a one-year deal.