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John Lackey needs Tommy John surgery, won’t pitch in 2012

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The Boston Red Sox won't have to worry about John Lackey being a toxic presence in their clubhouse next year.

During his introductory press conference, new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington announced that Lackey will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2012 season.

Unfortunately, that also means the Red Sox won't be able to move Lackey and the remaining three years on his contract. There's one less thing for Cherington to deal with in his first days on the job.

Lackey had his right elbow examined recently by Dr. Lewis Yocum in California. The visit was a follow-up on MRI exams performed when Lackey went on the DL with an elbow strain in mid-May.

Apparently, the soreness lingered throughout the season. That would certainly be an explanation for Lackey's 12-12 record and 6.41 ERA this year. His 160 innings were the fewest since his rookie season. {YSP:MORE}

Perhaps frustration over his injuries (and personal issues off the field) also explain why Lackey took part in the now-infamous fried chicken and beer escapades during the Red Sox's September collapse. His involvement in those clubhouse excursions — along with his terrible performance — made a return with the Red Sox next season seemingly impossible.

Rumors had the San Diego Padres possibly interested in trading for him, if Boston had taken on most of the $45.75 million remaining on his contract.

But now that he needs elbow surgery, the Red Sox could keep Lackey around for an additional season if they so choose, and at a bargain price. His contract includes a clause that triggers a club option for the league minimum salary if Lackey required surgery during the five years of the deal.

More John Lackey in Boston's future? Just days ago, it seemed unimaginable. But it looks like the Red Sox and their fans will now have to consider it as a very real possibility.

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