The Red Sox’ swirling cesspool of malcontents

There hasn’t been much to smile about in Bobby Valentine’s first — and perhaps only — season as Red Sox manager.

The ugly, dysfunctional state of affairs surrounding the capsizing 2012 Red Sox is making the infamous era of 25 players, 25 cabs look like a minor personality clash.

The Red Sox have devolved into a collection of reprehensible characters and stunningly underachieving talent that has made this season one to remember for all the wrong reasons.

After the Sox’ crash-and-burn finish last September, the organization had an opportunity to clear out the squalid personalities and start anew. Unload the Lackeys, Becketts, et al — take pennies on the dollar in trade if you had to — but it was imperative to clean house to ensure a fresh start in 2012.

Red Sox ownership responded by firing manager Terry Francona, effectively saying the players had tuned him out. Ever the good soldier, Francona even fell on the sword, admitting he had lost the ability to communicate effectively with his team. Of course, he was careful to avoid burning bridges so as not to hinder future employment opportunities.

But, clearly, Francona was not the problem. He has long had a reputation as a player’s manager but his players succeeded in abusing their manager’s most endearing and valuable quality. It’s not easy placating 25 diverse individuals who are forced to spend eight or nine months together. It’s even more difficult appeasing 25 self-centered jocks who have been incessantly praised since the day they could throw a ball or swing a bat.

That thankless task has fallen into the hands of Bobby Valentine, whose robust ego and well-documented history of nonconformity should have been enough of a red flag to prevent his hiring in the first place. There’s a reason he hadn’t managed in the majors in the 10 years leading up to his accepting Boston’s offer.

But this fiasco isn’t Bobby Valentine’s fault, either. In a season in which an expanded wild-card format seemingly assured that the Sox could flip on the cruise control before hitting the gas for the stretch run in August, Boston is languishing 6½ games out of a playoff spot with 45 games remaining.

Is there still time for the Red Sox to right the ship and leapfrog the five teams ahead of them in the wild-card standings? Of course. Is it likely? Not very.

This is a repulsive team with incredibly unlikeable players. A report surfaced Tuesday about Adrian Gonzalez demanding a meeting with ownership to say he and his teammates couldn’t play for their manager anymore. The story also included a report about Dustin Pedroia, the team’s unofficial captain, mocking Valentine in a clubhouse photo.

With each passing day, another ugly incident slithers into the public eye, including this video, which shows a player who looks suspiciously like Jon Lester throwing a handful of sunflower seeds into the face of first base coach Alex Ochoa.

Ownership has thrown its support behind Valentine, effectively giving him the dreaded vote of confidence. But this team’s problems run deep, well beyond its routinely lackluster performances on the field.

The 2012 Red Sox have become inconsequential, and in a sports-crazed city like Boston, that is the most damning characteristic of all.