Lackey traded to Cardinals for Craig, Kelly

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Lackey traded to Cardinals for Craig, Kelly
July 31, 2014, 1:15 pm
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BOSTON -- For the second time on Deadline Day, the Red Sox looked more to the present than the future in dealing off a starting pitcher.

Hours after sending Jon Lester (and Jonny Gomes) to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes, the Sox dealt John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig and starting pitcher Joe Kelly.

Both Craig and Kelly were important parts of the Cardinals' 2013 N.L. pennant-winning teams. Craig recently turned 30 while Kelly just turned 26.

Contractually, Craig is signed through 2017 with an option for 2018, while Kelly won't be eligible for salary arbitration until after next season and will be under control for at least three full seasons after this one.

Craig joins Cespdes as part of a revamped lineup that will be considerably more formidable than this year's edition.

But the Sox, in their second major deal of the day, made clear that they're not interesting in a complete re-boot. Rather, it appears as though they're trying to shuffle their roster on the fly with mid-level players, not unlike what happened after the 2012 season.

That year, the Red Sox responded to a last-place finish in the division by buying up mid-level, in-their-prime free agents (Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino). This time, they're taking a similar approach, but achieving their goals through the trade market.

Craig is a solid, middle-of-the-order hit who is more of a run producer than he is a home-run hitter. Craig had 189 RBI between 2012 and 2013, but has never had more than 22 homers in a season.

Kelly is a middle-of-the-rotation starter who gives the Red Sox another established major league pitcher for their 2014 rotation. The trading of Lester and Lackey had left Clay Buchholz as the only starter under control for next year with significant major-league experience.

The Sox had reportedly shown interest in some of the Cardinals' younger outfielder prospects Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty, the Red Sox focused on the here and now.

One potential issue: the Sox now have more outfielders than they have places to have them all play. With Craig, Daniel Nava, Yoenis Cespedes, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt and Shane Victorino, they have at least one more outfielder than they need.

That increases the chances that the Sox aren't through dealing from an area of surplus.