The Red Sox chose to decline Alex Gonzalez’s $6 million option for 2010 today, putting the shortstop on the free agent market.

Quick recap: Gonzalez came to Boston post-Edgar Renteria and served ably, with sensational defense and a penchant for launching the occasional bomb but not much else. He left for a big-money contract in Cincinnati following the season, Julio Lugo taking his place.

That contract was marred by injuries, and he was shipped back to Boston in August at which time he exploded, again providing great defense while being above-average on offense. Part of me wonders if the team even would have made the playoffs without him.

Just because he’s set free now doesn’t mean he can’t return to Boston. However, Gonzo is not a $6 million player, so the decision was easy. Especially with the news that John Henry’s hedge fund business is suffering — no matter what the front office may say, it will absolutely impact the finances Boston has to work with.

If Gonzalez is willing to sign a two-year deal for $6 million, he’ll be back in Boston. The risk here is obviously opening the bidding up to 29 other teams, but at this point, I think Boston is willing to pay a shade above market value for him — just not way above.

Delaying a decision on Gonzalez also impacts Boston’s ability to continue shopping for a better or more long-term shortstop. The team was in the hunt for J.J. Hardy but lost out to the Twins earlier this week.