Reminding one and all the Red Sox failed to acquire Mike Gonzalez, Chad Cordero or Brad Lidge this offseason (nor Eric Gagne), the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo addresses a glaring hole in the Fenway bullpen.

Barring a closer falling from the sky, there exists a tremendous opportunity for someone on the current staff to be on the ground floor of a profitable career. If this sounds like the 2003 season, when the pertinent phrase was “closer by committee,” that’s true, but this time there appear to be more options.

More than one executive at the winter meetings wondered whether Boston would turn back to Papelbon if he shows that, with a healed shoulder, he can take the up-and-down and pitching three or four times a week.

Short of that, the candidates are Julian Tavarez, Brendan Donnelly, Mike Timlin, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Devern Hansack, Runelvys Hernandez, and Edgar Martinez. And Reliever X thrown into the mix.

Who will graduate from Fort Myers to Boston and pitch the ninth inning?

If there were ever a time for Hansen to assume the role of “closer of the future,” it would be now. If there were a time and a place for Delcarmen to seize the moment, it would be now as well. Or if there were a time for Hansack to defy all odds and give the Sox a find of all finds, it is the present.

It appears that Tavarez (above, left) will get the greatest opportunity to take the job. Throughout his career, his stuff has been at times unhittable. Yet last season he was relegated to mop-up duty before the Sox used him in the rotation late in the season. Tavarez seemed to have a ball as a starter. He was happy again, thriving. Would he be the same if he’s given the closer job? He does, after all, thrive on adrenaline. He seems to get up for situations in which the team needs him. Let’s see.

“Of all the guys they have, I would think it would be Tavarez,” said one AL executive. “He’s got the mind-set for it. He’s actually done it in Pittsburgh [11 saves in 2003].”

The New York Daily News’ Bill Madden and Anthony McCarron report the proposed return of Randy Johnson to Arizona might hinge on the Snakes’ willingness to grant the Unit a contract extension.

The Diamondbacks, who already owe Johnson about $40 million in deferred money, apparently are looking for a way to factor some of that cash into the extension, the source said. Arizona also is trying to convince the Yankees to kick in some of Johnson’s $16 million salary for next season.

But if the Yankees are going to include money in the trade, they want at least three players back – either all bona fide prospects or two top prospects and a major leaguer who would help them this year, another baseball official said.

The Yankees have targeted three young pitchers in Arizona’s talent-filled system – Dustin Nippert, Micah Owings and Ross Ohlendorf, all righthanders. Some published reports have them also liking righty reliever Brandon Medders, who has gone 9-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 87 games over the last two seasons.

Faith & Fear In Flushing’s Greg Prince has picked his Top 500 Songs Of All Time, and with apologies to Ronald Thomas Clonte, this might be the ultimate argument starter. Where’s Bobby Soxx’s “Learn To Hate (In The 80’s)”?