The worst is almost certainly yet to come for the Red Sox.

Major League Baseball is digging into the club’s alleged illegal use of the video replay room at Fenway Park throughout the 2018 regular season. Employing technology to steal signs is nothing new in Boston. The Apple Watch nonsense of 2017, though perpetrated by a different cast of characters, surely hasn’t been forgotten by commissioner Rob Manfred and his office.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora is now a central figure in a pair of scandals involving two World Series champions. He served as the Astros bench coach during their run to the 2017 crown, and what remained of their front office and field staff was hammered by MLB on Monday. General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were both given one-year bans by Manfred before being fired by Houston owner Jim Crane.

Cora’s smashing debut on the Boston bench and the franchise’s fourth title of this century are now in grave jeopardy of being tarnished. It’s hard to see him surviving with the Red Sox if MLB imposes similar penalties, a decision that would see the organization fined and stripped of several future draft selections. The Red Sox can afford to pay any monetary amount commanded by MLB, but their thin farm system needs the type of picks that were taken from the Astros over the next two seasons.

A matching one-year ban for Cora would cover half of his remaining contract, and it would seem unlikely for Boston to await his return or extend him past its 2022 club option. The Astros opted to allow MLB to act before doing so on their own, and a similar course figures to buy the Red Sox some time. They could commit to Cora by keeping his seat warm for 2020 or be forced to make their fourth hire since the conclusion of the 2011 season.

Should Cora be punished by MLB and still retained by Boston, Ron Roenicke could slide a few feet down and fill in. The Red Sox bench coach has nearly 700 games of managerial experience with the Brewers, has reached a National League Championship Series and knows the current roster well. Roenicke’s hand figures to be steady enough to navigate six months in charge.

Boston could also look to a pair of veterans for a short-term fix. Bruce Bochy was less than a month into his retirement from the Giants before announcing he’d like to manage again, and his three championships in a major market could translate well in terms of instant credibility. Dusty Baker has shown the ability to guide experienced rosters into October, and he might relish the chance to end a two-year hiatus from the dugout.

The hire that wins the press conference, of course, would be Jason Varitek. The former Red Sox captain and special assistant to the front office won two championships in Boston and spent a considerable amount of time around the major league club in 2019. Boston’s fan base – still agitated by a subpar title defense and talk of payroll reduction – is almost certain to forgive the club if Varitek is introduced as a long-term solution.

Much like any other professional field, however, baseball is about relationships. Chaim Bloom is in his first few months as the Red Sox chief baseball officer, and he shouldn’t be expected to have the extensive managerial contacts of veteran executives like Dave Dombrowski or Pat Gillick. Bloom might opt to go with who he knows, and Boston won’t have the capital available to entice a parting of the ways between Kevin Cash and Bloom’s longtime home in Tampa Bay.

With that in mind, Matt Quatraro could represent the logical next step for the Red Sox. Cash’s 46-year-old bench coach has started popping up on some managerial radars, interviewing for the vacancies in San Francisco and Pittsburgh during this offseason. He was an assistant hitting coach under Terry Francona for four years in Cleveland from 2014-17, and a quick call to his old boss would be enough to learn all about the demands of working in one of the game’s toughest markets.

All of this is speculation, of course. We won’t know Boston’s fate until MLB is finished with its proceedings behind closed doors. The results could well shake the Red Sox to their foundation if Monday is any guide.

bkoch@providencejournal.com

On Twitter: @BillKoch25