For all the offseason changes — from a new manager and his overhauled coaching staff to a different closer and seven free agent additions — the Red Sox' chances of turning around last season's 93-loss debacle ride primarily on the starting rotation.

More specifically, they come down to Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

Surely, there will be other factors. But if Lester and Buchholz adhere more closely to their career track records than to their combined 4.70 ERA from last season, the Red Sox will be well-positioned to avoid another last-place finish and perhaps even stay in playoff contention through the summer. If last season's results instead represent more of a new normal than an outlier, well, it's going to be another long year.

One good place for Lester and Buchholz to start: Pass on the World Baseball Classic.

The deadline to submit provisional rosters for the WBC is Wednesday, and although recently acquired closer Joel Hanrahan has informed the Joe Torre-managed United States team that he isn't interested in playing again after his experience in 2009, several of his new Red Sox teammates figure to draw interest from their respective countries.

Because the WBC is a showcase for Major League Baseball, teams are ordered not to dissuade players from competing unless there is a health concern from the previous season. In all likelihood, the Red Sox will use that injury clause with regard to the availability of Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks to Team USA, David Ortiz to the Dominican Republic and lefty Franklin Morales to Venezuela.

But right fielder Shane Victorino played for the U.S. in 2009 and may be under consideration to do so again. Likewise, right-hander Ryan Dempster could be asked to pitch for Canada, and the Venezuelan team may attempt to lure lefty Felix Doubront, whose participation surely would trouble the Red Sox after he logged a career-high 161 innings last season and faded down the stretch.