It's easy -- obvious, even -- that Clay Buchholz should be immediately replaced in the Red Sox rotation.
What's more, it's apparent who should replace him. Eduardo Rodriguez, though his velocity remains mysteriously subpar, is otherwise healthy and available.
Even with the acknowledgement that Rodriguez's fastball isn't as lively as the Red Sox would prefer it to be, he remains a logical option.
And there can be little debate over the move to extract Buchholz from the rotation. In 10 starts, he's compiled a 6.35 ERA, and while pitcher’s won-loss records are notoriously misleading, this stat isn't: the Red Sox are 3-7 with Buchholz starting and 26-11 with everyone else.
Buchholz's confidence is shattered. You can see it in his body language on the mound. You can sense it with the glacial-like pace in which he works
with runners on base. You can observe it in his postgame remarks, where he looks and sounds like someone with no idea how to reverse his slide.
But the next part of the equation is a little trickier: what do the Red Sox do with him now?
It's highly unlikely that the Sox will just release him. For one thing, there's more than $8 million coming to him for the remainder of the season and those decisions aren't made lightly.
For another, it's possible -- hard as it might be to imagine now -- that Buchholz could help the 2016 Red Sox before the season is through. And if you think that's a ridiculous notion, then you've forgotten other similar stretches in his career.
In 2014, when Buchholz had what was, until then, the worst season of his career, he still managed to put together a seven-start stretch at the end of the season that saw him go 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA.
Or the 13-game stretch inside the otherwise hideous 2012 (season ERA: 4.56) in which Buchholz was 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA.
Those two stretches are at the heart of the paradox that is Buchholz - even in the course of miserable seasons, he invariably finds a stretch where he figures some things out and pitches brilliantly for a time.
It's one reason the Red Sox have stuck with him for the first two months -- the knowledge that, at any time, something may click, sending Buchholz on one of his patented rolls.
After all, Buchholz is just 31, too young to be finished. And as both the pitcher himself and manager John Farrell said Thursday night, in the wake of another poor outing, health isn't an issue.
And that's the rub here.
If Buchholz hadn't been given a public clean bill of health, the Red Sox could have discovered a heretofore undetected "general soreness'' somewhere on Buchholz's body -- a balky shoulder here, or a tender elbow there.
That would have bought Buchholz and the Red Sox some time to place him on the DL, take a mental break from the mound and work on making some adjustment away from prying eyes.
Now, that would seem not to be an option -- unless Buchholz, ahem, stubbed a toe getting on or off the Red Sox charter flight to Toronto early Friday morning.
Finally, Buchholz is long out of options and has sufficient service time to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues.
So what's left? Not much, beyond a trip to the bullpen. And that's where things get complicated.
In a 10-year major league career, Buchholz has made exactly two (2) appearances in relief, the most recent of which took place in 2008.
Given that Buchholz has struggled mightily early in games -- until Thursday's start, when he completely flipped the script and retired the first nine hitters he faced, Buchholz had allowed a batting average of .366 the first time through the order -- it's difficult to imagine him being successful in relief.
Sure, the Red Sox could designated him as their mop-up man in relief, brought in when the team has fallen behind early or jumped out to a huge lead in the middle innings.
But such scenarios can't be counted upon to provide Buchholz with enough regular opportunities, and even if they did present themselves, there's no guarantee that Buchholz would thrive under such circumstances.
So, the club appears at a dead end -- unwilling to release Buchholz because of meager starting depth options and the likelihood that he might be needed in a few weeks or months, and unable to find a spot for him to get straightened out.
It's the ultimate conundrum, which, when you think about it, is the perfect way to view Buchholz's career.