MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox

Red Sox left fielder J.D. Martinez runs onto the field before Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. See story, Page C4.

I KNOW we’ve talked about this periodically in this space, but, regardless how this long-shot chase for a playoff spot comes out, this will be a busy winter for the Red Sox — and it revolves particularly around at least seven names and things.

J.D. Martinez

Mookie Betts

Rick Porcello

Dave Dombrowski

The 2020 first baseman

Dustin Pedroia

A closer

Sure there are other matters that have to be addressed, but the above are all key to what happens to this team next season.

In Martinez you have one of the best hitters in the game who has an opt-out of his remaining three years and $62.45 million waiting for him if he wants it (less than $20 million in ’21 and ’22). He wants it –- even if it to stay with the Sox. His outside market will be limited, but someone will pay him. It should be the Sox, tacking on two years and more money. Martinez has another opt-out after next season.

In Betts you have one of the best young players in the game on the threshold of his first big-money contract. Twenty million this season means close to $30 million next and then free agency if he wants it. Move him now if he doesn’t want to sign an extension. You can get a package for him that should help replenish the farm system. But you also wouldn’t have MOOKIE BETTS next year. MLB.com had Betts atop the list of 15 prime trade candidates this winter.

In Porcello, you have a durable right-hander who continued his odd/even-year thing this season and is facing free agency. Offer him the qualifier and hopes he takes it –- 2020 is an even year. Or, just let him walk and take all those innings with him.

In Dombrowski you have a GM who brought the fourth title to Boston while living true to his resume of trading the future for the present. He appears to be at odds with ownership so a change might be better for all involved. Assistant Eddie Romero is the name being floated but would they go outside?

First base? Both Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are done after this season. Michael Chavis is there to take over and having a second baseman would free him to play first. Then there’s prospect Bobby Dalbec – so no need to spend money on this spot.

In Pedroia you have a fighter who vows to make it back, even as we all think he’s done. What if he’s NOT done? Well, sign Brock Holt as a safeguard for Pedroia being done.

Which brings us to the closer. This year, they didn’t have one until Brandon Workman got the job by default too late in the season. Stick with Workman? Sure? Why not.

A busy winter lies ahead.

Opening night

While the baseball season is winding down –- and October is still a distant dream –- the quest for Super Bowl title No. 7 starts Sunday night in Foxborough.

Seventh heaven?

Seven Up?

People love to look for reasons why the Patriots WON’T win it again. Tom Brady is 42 and at some point HAS to act his age. Rob Gronkowski is gone and they don’t have a true tight end. Yada, yada, yada.

But this defense looks as good as a Bill Belichick defense has ever looked. Brady will NOT act his age. They’re work around the tight end problem – even if Gronk doesn’t come back. There’s no reason for no No. 7.

The experts say no.

Sports Illustrated’s Mitch Goldich writes: “While I’m not ready to predict the sudden, complete and total end of the Patriots’ dynasty, I do predict a down season and the end of two impressive streaks: nine consecutive first-round byes and eight consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances.”

SI’s Bette Marston she “picked the Patriots to lose to the Saints in the Super Bowl.”

Still, the SI staff had the Pats atop the team rankings, writing, “The Super Bowl LIII champions were the No. 1 team in our offseason power rankings after free agency and the draft — and they’ll stay there for now.”

More Pats

Troy Brown was a hit as a camp aide and is likely to stick around to help the receivers. “He’s really helping our staff. Love having him here,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He was such a great influence on our team when he was a player, and he’s extended that now as he’s starting his career in this crazy profession called coaching.”

Numbers heading into the opener: Brady against Steelers coach Mike Tomlin‘s defenses since he started his Steeler job in 2007: 7-2 record, 232 for 318 (72.9 completion percentage) 2,850 yards, 24 TDs, two interceptions. He’s 4-0, with 15 TDs and ZERO picks at home.

From patscap on Twitter: “My new Patriots salary cap space number after presuming Demaryius Thomas will have the same salary and 46-man active roster bonuses is $6,056,274.”

It was only days ago that Elandon Roberts was seen by some as being on the bubble. Now, he’s a captain.

“It was a great feeling, of course, to be respected on that level,” he said. “At the same time, I’m just doing what my job is. Being a captain, it’s just another job to do and I’m going to take it with pride and respect the position.”

Interesting that David Andrews, who will miss the season because of blood clots, is still a captain. The guy is a force in that locker room.

Joining Roberts and Andrews as Patriots captains: Brady, Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, James White and Dont’a Hightower. …

Slow process

As the Bruins continue to NOT talk contract with Torey Krug, and as Jeremy Jacobs turns his team over to his six kids, Zdeno Chara says he might not be ready for the opener after suffering multiple jaw fractures in the playoffs.

“I’m not sure,” the captain said. “I think I should be, but it’s a process of making sure there are no setbacks or any discomfort.

”I’m still working on being at full strength. The process is still going on, getting stronger and healthier.”

There’s always talk about a championship hangover for the defending champs. But what about the title loser – especially after that loser loses a seventh game game on its home turf?

”It’s just something that you have to learn to live with it,” says David Krejci. “The only way out of it is to have a good season and make a push in the playoffs.”

Back to the ownership, the elder Jacobs, the hardliner leader of NHL ownership, telling the Boston Globe, “I have given it to my kids. They are paying me some of the proceeds that come out of this. It happened this year. This was done on the basis that the longevity is going to continue in the hands of the Jacobs children, and the next generation will have it.”

Looking around

The Red Sox have 21 pitchers, but they didn’t have Quinton Berry-type speed guy who could have pinch run and scored that tying run Thursday night. By the way, I changed my mind on that play -– Carlos Febles should NOT have sent Rafael Devers home on Eddie Rosario. …

Second-year QB Sam Darnold likes what he sees in his J-E-T-S. Asked by The Athletic’s Gary Myers about if there’s an obsession with beating the Pats, he said, “Definitely. I think with what we are doing here, we will go head-to-head with them. Not to discredit anything they have done, they have built a dynasty up there and we’re looking obviously to beat them this year. Every time you play them you got to prepare your butt off. You got to bring it. We’re aware of that, but at the same time, we got the guys to do it.” He thinks the Jets are “definitely a playoff team.” …

From RedSoxNotes on Twitter after Wednesday night: “Only 3 times in Red Sox history has a leadoff hitter homered in each of the first 2 innings of a game: Mookie Betts – 5/31/16 at BAL Mookie Betts – 6/1/16 at BAL Mookie Betts – 9/4/19 vs. MIN.” …

The Bruins traded captain Joe Thornton to San Jose in 2005. Yes, 2005 – and Jumbo Joe is back for another year with the Sharks, via his third straight one-year contract. “Words cannot equate the impact that Joe has had on this franchise since his arrival in San Jose in 2005,” GM Rick Wilson said in a statement. “Joe is a generational player who seemingly blazes past an existing Hall of Famer with each game he plays. His leadership and dedication to the organization and his teammates is inspiring. He has the rare ability to make the players around him better and we’re excited to see him healthy and back wearing the Sharks crest.” …

With their team in town, Yankees Gary Sanchez and Edwin Encarnacion visited David Ortiz for some five hours on the off day and reported Papi looks great. “He is a legend, I admire him very much, and it was just an honor to see him doing so well in his recovery,” Sanchez told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “I had the chance to play against him in 2016 and we always talked ... and he gave me good advice, especially to have fun and remain true to myself, and I have always appreciated that. He is a great ballplayer and an even better person.” …

The NHL takes its next step into the future as four female officials –- two refs and two linesmen –- will work the upcoming prospects tournament in Buffalo (which includes the Bruins). …

After the opioid-related death of Tyler Skaggs, players and management are ready to talk about expanding drug testing. Players head Tony Clark said, “For several reasons, including the tragic loss of a member of our fraternity and other developments happening in the country as a whole, it is appropriate and important to reexamine all of our drug protocols relating to education, treatment and prevention. …

The Mets were 806-0 when leading by six runs in the ninth inning in their history – until Tuesday night, when the Nationals scored seven in the ninth to win 11-10. The same night, and not too far away, the Mets’ Syracuse Triple-A team gave up eight runs in the bottom of the eighth to the Yankees’ Wilkes-Barre team to lose 14-13. …

Antonio Brown was released by the Raiders Saturday, ending a ridiculous relationship. Pats? Brown was released after $215,000 in fines voided his $29 million in bonus cash. …

Jay Groome, recovering from Tommy John surgery, pitched three innings for the Lowell Spinners the other night before giving way to Yusniel Padron-Artilles, who struck out the next 12 batters. Said Groome: “My goal really is just to throw as many innings as I can and just stay healthy. I’ve got a brand new arm, basically. So I know if I can maintain it and keep it healthy, the sky’s the limit.”…

Hall of Famer Jayson Stark pointed out that before Jorge Soler hit his 40th homer this week, “40-HR seasons by the Royals since 1969: 0; 40-HR seasons by the other 29 teams: 242.” …

Sidney Crosby‘s jersey continued to lead in NHL sales in 2018-19. He was second to Auston Matthews the previous year. Patrice Bergeron was No. 5. …

Good news, New England fans: a survey of 3,500 people done by Insight Pest Solution on whose fans BUG people the most, saw you folks some up as No. 1. Red Sox fans actually finished (barely) behind Yankee fans, but Patriots rooters help put New England over the top overall. Bruins fans were also No. 3, while the Celtics came in at No. 3. …

Great note passed along by TMZ: “Ezekiel Elliott Donates $100,000 To Salvation Army After Signing New Deal.” …

Gleyber Torres joined Alex Rodriguez as the only middle infielders with at least 34 homers at age 22 or younger. …

Along those lines, fellow WNBA’ers have been lining up with Bahamian Jonquel Jones in her campaign to help our native country –- the Chicago Sky presenting her with a check for $5,100 before Friday Night’s game. …

From SoxNotes on Twitter: “Mookie Betts has now recorded 40+ doubles in 5 consecutive seasons. The only other Red Sox with as many as five 40-double seasons are Wade Boggs (8) and David Ortiz (5).” …

NBC has bounced Pierre McGuire from its No. 1 NHL broadcast team, and while Twitter went nuts for and against McGuire, one thing got lost –- replacement Brian Boucher does a fine job in that role. …

The Rays are right in the middle of a playoff push –- and people continue to NOT show up at the Trop for their games. Tell me how this is a long-term fit? …

Finally, we give you the deal signed by Rams QB Jared Goff this week: four years, $134 million and … incredibly, $110 million guaranteed.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.