NEW YORK -- It's a question that has hovered over the Red Sox for several weeks now, intensifying with each day as the season draws to a close: Who will manage the team next year?
Some have come to label it the elephant in the room, since the decision involves incumbent manager John Farrell, who took a leave of absence in mid-August when he revealed he was battling stage one lymphoma.
The Red Sox have compiled a 28-16 mark (.636 winning percentage) since interim manager Torey Lovullo took over, compared to the 50-64 record (.439) they had under Farrell, further complicating the issue.
But multiple industry sources have confirmed that Farrell will return as manager of the Red Sox -- as long as he's healthy enough to do so.
Farrell is in the middle of his final chemotherapy treatments this week, which began Wednesday and conclude Thursday. In the last week of October, he will undergo a scan to determine if the cancer has been eradicated.
If it has, and Farrell is given a clean bill of health from his doctors, sources say the Red Sox will announce that he will return to manage the club in 2016.
Until then, the Sox are expected to have no official comment on their manager.
Farrell was given a two-year extension with a team option last February, putting him under contract through the end of 2017 at a minimum.
After winning a World Series in his first year in the dugout in 2013, Farrell oversaw a last-place finish with the Sox in 2014. The team was again in last place in mid-August when he took his leave his absence, but has since ralled under Lovullo.
Should the Sox win their final four games of the season, they would finish with a winning record. They could finish as high as third in the A.L. East.
Still, several sources indicated that Farrell will return, health permitting. Two baseball sources confirmed that Farrell has been told as much, while another source revealed that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, in his first address to the staff in mid-August, said Farrell's job would be waiting for him next spring.
Publicly, Dombrowski has skirted the topic of Farrell's future, repeatedly saying that the focus was on Farrell getting healthy. He's yet to say publicly what he's said privately to Farrell or to others, an industry source said, because he doesn't want to have the issue become a distraction for Farrell as he goes through his treatments.
Lovullo has been widely praised for the job he's done as the interim manager. On his watch, the Sox have played better and a number of younger players -- Jackie Bradley Jr., Travis Shaw and Blake Swihart in particular -- have blossomed.
With more than 1,200 games managed in the minors, two-plus seasons as a major-league bench coach and a successful interim stint, Lovullo will be in demand for a number of potential managerial openings elsewhere this fall.
It's expected there could be job openings in Washington, Seattle, San Diego and Miami. Lovullo last winter interviewed for managerial openings in Minnesota and Houston, losing out both times.
Traditionally, teams begin the managerial search process in the days following the end of the season, and that will put Dombrowski in a difficult spot.
While he would like to see Lovullo rewarded by realizing his long-held dream of managing in the big leagues, Dombrowski may not be in position to grand Lovullo permission to interview elsewhere since he may want to turn to Lovullo if Farrell isn't cleared by doctors later this month.
Since some managerial hirings aren't finalized in October, it's conceivable there still could be jobs available at the end of the month, when Farrell's medical status is expected to be determined. If Farrell is cleared, the Red Sox could then grant Lovullo permission to interview with interested teams.