Before dealing for right-hander Justin Masterson on Wednesday, the St. Louis Cardinals were thought to be in the market for Jon Lester or another top-tier starting pitcher. Or possibly even some help on offense. Instead, with Lester going to the Athletics, and strong hitters appearing to a cost a premium amount, the Cardinals went after Boston's second-best starter, John Lackey.
Peter Gammons was the first to report that Lackey is heading to St. Louis for slugger Allen Craig and right-hander Joe Kelly. Lackey, 35, has been terrific for Boston since returning from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, posting a 3.55 ERA with 277 strikeouts in 326 2/3 innings in 2013 and 2014. He's also been tested in the playoffs, posting a 3.03 ERA in 104 career innings, including a 2.57 ERA in the 2013 World Series.
Another appealing detail for Lackey: The club holds the option on his contract for $500,000 or the league mininum— whichever is greater — in 2015. The Red Sox wrote in that he'd get that amount if he suffered elbow trauma and missed significant time from 2010-2014.
Lackey has said he'll honor the terms of the contract, though the Cardinals could try to extend him beyond 2015 to make both sides happ(ier) at some point. But that comes later, after they make another run at the World Series.
In a short span, the Red Sox have traded their starting pitchers from Games 1-3 of the 2013 World Series (not to mention Felix Doubront), with only Game 4 starter Clay Buchholz remaining. Here's what they got for Lackey:
Craig, 29, has been plagued by injuries this season, and was hurt late in 2013 after posting his third straight strong season at the plate. For his career, he's a .291 batter with 57 homers and an .803 on-base plus slugging percentage in 1,818 plate appearances since 2010. His best position probably is first base, or left field.
The Red Sox get also Kelly, a hard thrower who has a 4.37 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 35 innings this season, which has been interrupted by a hamstring injury. Kelly posted a 2.69 ERA in 124 innings in 2013, along with a 4.15 ERA in four postseason starts. Just 26 years old, his best performances probably are yet to come. He's the key to the deal for them.
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