Time to Roll Out Red Carpet for Johnny Damon in Boston? If the Red Sox are unable to re-sign Jason Bay, here’s an idea on how to fill the void in front of the Green Monster that’s straight out of left field.

Bring back Johnny Damon.

Yes, the same Damon who traded a Red Sox uniform for Yankees pinstripes. The same player who went from looking like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer to a Wall Street trader. The same guy who became as popular in New England as Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone.

Players don’t usually leave Boston for the Bronx, then turn around and leave the Bronx for Boston. But the stars might be aligned to make it happen this offseason.

The four-year, $52 million deal Damon signed with the Yankees in the winter of 2005 is up after this season.

The free-agent-to-be still can play. Although Damon hit only .083 in the ALDS against Minnesota, he batted .282 during the regular season and tied a career high in home runs with 24. He also produced 82 RBIs (the third-highest output of his 15 seasons), scored 107 runs, drew 77 walks and remains an on-base machine.

Last but not least, he’s an Idiot. Damon might be 35, but he still acts like a rookie when it comes to having fun on the diamond. Besides the on-field contributions, his carefree attitude could be the most important intangible Damon brings to the Red Sox, who displayed all the personality of a cantaloupe this season.

Boston could use a player to provide a spark. Baseball is a game, but the Red Sox didn’t always look like they were having fun. They took a very clinical approach to the campaign. Win or lose, their demeanor didn’t change much.

When the season ends with a World Series win, there’s no reason to question the “all business” way. But when the season doesn’t end with a championship, it’s time to reassess the chemistry and makeup of a club.

Look at the four teams still playing this October. The common denominator between all of them is passion. Players are fired up. They’re standing on the dugout steps and rooting for their teammates like Little Leaguers.

Positive emotions can be contagious, and sometimes, it’s good to have a character on the team to rally the troops. He also can lighten the mood and break up the monotony of a 162-game season with a joke, hot foot or gum bubble on the cap. It might not seem like much, but teams play better when they’re loose.

Of course, the Yankees could lock up Damon for a few more years, but they also could make a run at Bay. If the pinstripes open the vault for the 31-year-old Canadian, Damon might be the perfect left-field answer for the Red Sox.

Damon probably wouldn’t cost the moon. A two-year deal at $10 million a year might be enough to lure him back to the Hub. And that kind of contract wouldn’t be an albatross.

By 2012, the Red Sox could hand the job to one of their prospects.

Could Red Sox Nation forgive Johnny Damon and embrace him as one of its own again?

Ulcers and bad juju are the only things that come from holding a grudge.

When Damon first showed up at Fenway as a Yankee, Red Sox fans showered him with boos and greeted him with a sign that said "Looks like Jesus, Acts like Judas, Throws like Mary." It might be time for a new slogan — "The Prodigal Son Returns."