For all the build up heading into Las Vegas, the 2008 Winter Meetings has started off with more of a whimper than a bang.  
There seems to be more posturing than action at every turn, and maybe that’s to be expected in a market that shows more signs of mirroring the overall economic climate than the continued bonanza that free agents were hoping for.
Take for example Rafael Furcal and Francisco Rodriguez, who both turned their backs on lucrative contract offers because they expected more to be out there this winter.  
Furcal, the premier shortstop on the free agent market, turned down four years, $35-$40 million from the Oakland A’s only to find himself without overt suitors remaining.  Sure the Giants may be interested and there could be a chance that a team like the Red Sox sweep in and offer him a short term higher annual value deal, but turning down $8 – $10 million per year isn’t the slam dunk Furcal may have expected.  I don’t think the four year, $52 million dollars he is hoping for is out there.
The same can be said for Francisco Rodriguez, who after breaking the single season saves record thought for sure that he could top a three year, $34 -$36 million dollar offer from the Angels.  When he filed for free agency, K-Rod had dreams of $15 million per over four or five years.  As it turns out, the Mets, his strongest suitor, had to be talked into offering a third year with an annual value of $12 million – $13 million dollars.
So what does a soft market mean for the Red Sox?  I think it plays into their hands.  Coming into the winter meetings, the only two holes that absolutely had to be filled for this team to compete next season were a back up outfielder and to address their catching situation at both the starter and potentially back up positions.  Sure, other fine tuning would always serve to better the club, but a contending team could be fielded with just those minimal changes.
The move that most impacted the Red Sox so far this winter, was the trade of Gerald Laird to the Detroit Tigers for two minor league pitchers.  Not only was Laird a fallback option for the Red Sox should they not land a “catcher of the future”, but the Tigers were one of the few potential fits for Jason Varitek in the market for a starting catcher.
With the market clearly softer than expected, Scott Boras’ desire to land his client a “Jorge Posada-like” four year, $52 million dollar contract has to be viewed as unattainable, even for one of the best in the business at creating demand for his clients.
You can count me as surprised as many others that Jason Varitek didn’t take the arbitration offer from the Red Sox.  Right now, one year, $11 million and the ability to hit the market again next year (he can’t have a worse offensive season in 2009 can he?) with better momentum looks alot better than the uncertainty that surrounds his future.
But the Red Sox are happy to sit and wait on things to unfold.  They will be aggressive to consider other options (i.e. Brian Schneider) behind the plate as short term solutions and see how this plays out.
Beyond that, the Red Sox will sit and wait to see where value may be found.  Could it be with a starter like Brad Penny or Andy Pettitte? Or the aforementioned Rafael Furcal?  Or even the big fish, C.C. Sabathia or Mark Teixeira?
One thing is for sure however…don’t hold your breath constantly refreshing MLB Trade Rumors for news

“We’re not really optimistic about our chances of getting anything done while we’re here,” Epstein said. “We’re not really close to anything. We’re talking to some teams, we’re talking to some agents. But I wouldn’t expect anything to come out of these meetings, to be honest.”

Looks like we’ll just have to wait it out.