The most intriguing trade that the Red Sox made during the 2014 trade deadline is now perhaps the one they most regret. In a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston shipped the newly revived starter John Lackey to the National League, in exchange for young pitcher Joe Kelly and veteran offensive threat Allen Craig.
Kelly was the apple of Boston’s eye in this deal for his talented arsenal of pitches. Up until 2014, Kelly found himself in between both starting and relieving while at the major league level. Although he was never able to truly get a foothold on either role, he still managed to post a 3.08 ERA in 61 appearances (half of which were starts) between 2012 and 2013. With age, promise and projectablility on Kelly’s side, it was easy to see why Boston was so fond of him.
Allen Craig, the other half of the Red Sox return for John Lackey, came with more risk than Kelly, but also possessed great reward. A fan favorite in St. Louis, Craig came to Boston touting a career batting average over .280, with an equally impressive .350 on-base percentage. The 30-year old was a stalwart in the Cardinals order over the past 4 years, and even received some MVP votes in 2012 and 2013. However, concerns over Craig’s recent lisfranc injury, along with his soon-to-be expensive contract, influenced Cardinals GM Jon Mozeliak to include the first baseman/outfielder in the July trade.
Warning: This will be painful.
Fast-forward a little less than a year from when the trade went down.
In his short tenure as a Cardinal thus far, Lackey has been a reliable veteran arm in St. Louis’ rotation. After being dealt last season, Lackey crafted a 4.10 ERA and a 4.27 FIP over his first 10 starts in a Cards uniform. This season, Lackey has been the best starter in St. Louis, outside of Lance Lynn, and has helped guide St. Louis to pole position in the NL Central.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still waiting for their end of the deal to pan out. In 7 trips to the hill this season, Kelly has struggled to keep his ERA below 6.00 and has sporadically struggled with control. Allen Craig, who was recently passed up by the entire league after being outrighted off the Sox 40-man roster, has collected only 19 hits in 131 plate appearances. Oh, and the Red Sox are still on the hook for $25.5 million over the next 3 years of Craig’s deal.
Of course, there is still time for the Red Sox to claim some sort of victory in this deal. Joe Kelly is only 26, and possesses impressive stuff when he’s able to harness it. On average, Kelly has one of the fastest fastballs in the entire league, with equally impressive off speed pitches to compliment it. Allen Craig, on the other hand, has proven that he requires consistent playing time to be an effective player; which he will get in Pawtucket. Should Craig reestablish himself, perhaps he will challenge the struggling Mike Napoli for the first base job in Boston.
The hardest pill to swallow for Boston in this trade is that it was not a necessity. Free agency was not impending for Lackey like it was for his rotation mate Jon Lester. The 35-year old Lackey still had a season left on his deal, and was pitching well enough to justify an extension. However, the Sox had their mind set on cleaning house, and building a new rotation from the ground up. While their intentions were sound, the results have yet to show, and Lackey continues to turn in strong efforts for the Cardinals.
- Despite being thin at the catchers spot, the Red Sox turned their nose up at trading for Cubs backstop Welington Castillo. Instead of striking a deal with Chicago, the Sox seem content with letting top prospect Blake Swihart continue to learn on the fly in the majors. (Why the Red Sox didn’t trade for Welington Castillo)
- Yoan Moncada, the spoils of the Red Sox $63 million international splurge, enjoyed a quiet introduction to American baseball last night. Playing for the Greenville Drive, Moncada collected a walk in 4 trips to the plate last night, and made an error at shortstop. Still, the 19-year old showed off his raw athleticism both in the field and on the basepaths. (Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada’s pro debut quite and event)
- With the Red Sox offense reeling, Rusney Castillo could be just the spark the team is looking for. Since early May, the Cuban product has raised his batting slash to include a .301 average and a .355 on-base percentage. Along with an offensive outburst, Castillo has also managed to play plus defense in right field; a position of trouble in Boston. (How many good reasons do the Sox have to keep Rusney Castillo in the minors? None)
- As the weather begins to warm, so to could the bat of Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The Aruban born 22-year old used the recent road trip to more favorable climates to amass a .316 average over 6 games. While Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis still isn’t convinced that Boagerts has found his grove, he sees promise in the young infielders approach. (Xander Bogaerts starting to warm up at the plate)
- Tweet of the day: Red Sox Nation right now…