The Red Sox are shopping Jon Lester on the open market and he's been scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday.
NL GM says #RedSox aren’t just exploring the Lester market. They’re talking offers and want to deal him. Hard to image he starts tomorrow— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) July 29, 2014
The Bridge Year has arrived. But it's been more than a bridge year. This is a ride across the galaxy. The Boston Red Sox are on their way to becoming the Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, or Kansas City Red Sox.
Welcome to the "Mid-Market Zone."
It's become evident based on history that 2013 was the aberration for the Red Sox, and the futility of 2010, crumble of 2011, or wreckage of 2012 is far more the norm these days on Yawkey Way.
In four of the past five seasons, soon to be five out of six, the Red Sox have not won a postseason game. They have been slightly-under .500 team over their past 500 games. Boston's last MVP was Dustin Pedroia in 2008. Its last Cy Young Award winner was Pedro Martinez in 2000.
The Red Sox are simply a mediocre team disguised as a big-market powerhouse with a few last-place seasons thrown in for good measure. They are soon to adopt the appearance of a mid-market team, as well.
The Red Sox are no longer the free-spending, chasing-the-Yankees-for-the-top-of-the-heap franchise that we all fell back in love with 10 years ago. Baseball's Nuclear Arms Race is raging on the West Coast. Back East, only the Yankees have chosen to participate these days. The Red Sox used to spend whatever possible to get the best players they could. The formula worked, in part, given all those postseason appearances from 2003-10 and the sellout streak that defied logic.
No more. Too many Dice-K's, Carl Crawfords, and Josh Becketts changed that. The Red Sox, with 2013's Improbable Dream championship on their back, are now going to try and out-think, out-smart, and out-compute the competition.
The Red Sox payroll peaked in 2012 at about $175 million. It was pared to $150 million in 2013 and the team won a World Series. This year, Boston is back at $162 million (thanks, Ryan Dempster) and the Red Sox are back in last place. What sort of message does that send to management?
There are many sound reasons why the Red Sox should hold the line when it comes to blowing up their budget and blasting through the luxury tax wall. Unfortunately, the case of Lester isn't one. The Red Sox will end up spending nearly as much money trying to make up for the loss of Lester in the long-term than they would have had this issue been dealt with correctly in the first place. There was no reason to let him come into spring training without an extension, never mind up until the trade deadline.
Whether it was by mistake or design doesn't really matter at this point. The Red Sox are not going to get anything close to Lester in terms of impact or caliber if they trade him in the next 48 hours, which it looks like they intend to do.
Therefore, any deal to move Lester will be a bad deal.
The only positive that may come out of it will be the exposure of the Red Sox as big-market franchise with a small-market mentality. No one is asking the team to jump back into the quarter-billion dollar hole dug by the likes of Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. But paying their best overall pitcher and their best postseason pitcher since Babe Ruth market value is hardly asking the world for this franchise.
My family has had Red Sox season tickets for 28 years. There was serious discussion about walking away after last season because, as my cousin said, "How will they ever top this?"
Bottom line is, they won't, at least for another 95 years. To keep us interested in the interim, the Red Sox are going to have to be aggressive when it comes to keeping their best pitchers. Simply throwing up their collective arms, bellyaching about "30 being the new 50," and pointing toward the failures of the Yankees and others is not going to keep the masses coming back to Fenway.
The worst thing that could happen to the Red Sox in the wake of this last-place campaign is: Nothing. Clay Buchholz, the effervescent John Lackey, Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster/Henry Owens. That's the potential 2015 rotation once Lester exits.
Good luck with that selling tickets when it's time for Christmas at Fenway.
Remember where this team stood in the collective sports mind of New England before Patriots Day in 2013. Certainly, the team this year has done nothing to re-ignite the bitterness created by 2011 and '12. But 14-1 losses, a rotation led by Clay Buchholz or worse, and broken windshields caused by opposing batters will not keep the Fenway crowd or NESN viewers entertained or coming back in 2015.
Apathy, or worse, is looming.
Dealing Jon Lester for anything less than Jon Lester will only accelerate the process.
Thanks for the love y'all! Grateful for everyday I get to wake up a Red Sox! This game can be uncertain at times, just gotta roll with it!— Jon Lester (@JLester31) July 29, 2014
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit up Bill on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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