In Tuesday’s paper, Newsday’s David Lennon outlines the Mets’ goals over the next few days.

One Mets official proudly displayed the breakdown and denied the club is merely spending wildly to buy a contender. By trading for Paul Lo Duca rather than signing a free-agent catcher such as Bengie Molina or Ramon Hernandez, the Mets believe they pocketed another $3 million in savings over the next three years.

“From a financial standpoint,” Omar Minaya (above) said, “all we’ve done is replace the money we lost.”

Combine that with the possibility of moving Kris Benson, who is due $15 million over the next two years, and the Mets can entertain thoughts of taking on more salary, such as Ramirez’s $57 million over the next three seasons.

This year, the Mets already have Lo Duca. Mark Grudzielanek could be next, with the club possibly waiting until after Wednesday’s night’s arbitration deadline to sign the free-agent second baseman so they won’t have to surrender a draft pick as compensation.

Minaya is trying to find takers for Kaz Matsui, whose $8-million price tag makes him almost impossible to trade without paying a portion of that salary.

The Mets are looking for another relief pitcher as well as a No.3 starter, assuming they can deal Benson. Despite Minaya’s affection for Sammy Sosa, one club official said Monday the free agent’s name had not come up during internal discussions.

As much as Minaya continues to tinker with his roster, his newest acquisition believes the Mets are the favorite to win the division right now. Only minutes after Lo Duca officially became a Met, he hung a bull’s-eye on the team’s back.

“You don’t want to put pressure on yourself,” Lo Duca said, “but I think it would be a disappointment if we didn’t win the NL East.”

Though I can’t imagine Fred Wilpon apologizing to Mets fans were the club to be knocked out in the 2006 playoffs, this can’t be about merely winning the division.

There’s a thin line between a negotiating stance and merely telling the truth —- and Red Sox almost-GM Bill Lajoie walks it like a Wallenda. From the Providence Journal’s Sean McAdam.

Several Red Sox officials continued to emphasize that the Sox were not intent on dealing Ramirez at any price, noting his production and value.
“You’re not going to get fair value,” noted special adviser Bill Lajoie. “This is an A-1 hitter, and no one is going to give you an A-1 player in return. If you trade him, you won’t (get that). We will go as far as we can to satisfy (his desire to be dealt). On the other hand, we have to satisfy the team.”

Still, as teams continue to put together packages for Ramirez and more clubs enter the bidding, the Sox seem to be marching, inexorably, toward moving the outfielder. The offers, it would seem, are improving.

While the Red Sox wouldn’t say so publicly, it appears agent Greg Genske has communicated to management that Ramirez is so intent on being dealt that he will accept a trade almost anywhere. As a 10-5 player — that is, a player with 10 years of major-league service time, the last five with the same team — Ramirez has the right to veto any trade.

But in the last few weeks, Genske has, with the permission of the Red Sox, been calling teams to ascertain their interest in his client. One example: Genske contacted Toronto, a team no one could have forecast Ramirez would agree to play for, and said Ramirez would agree to a deal there.