Red Sox: Revisiting the John Lackey trade with St. Louis Cardinals

Looking back at the Boston Red Sox’ mid-season trade that shipped John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

2014 was quite the disappointment for the Boston Red Sox. After winning a championship the previous year, the team suffered the ultimate World Series hangover.

Jon Lester was sent to Oakland in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes (which essentially became Rick Porcello), but lurking in the shadow of that trade was the one which sent John Lackey to St. Louis for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. The irony in this trade is that Lackey picked up the win against the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series, pitching a strong 6 2/3 innings.

Lackey had a very up and down stint with the Red Sox. After signing 5-year deal worth $82.5 million in December 2009, he was immediately faced with scrutiny. After two mediocre seasons in which he finished with ERA’s of 4.40 and 6.41 respectively, he had a strong 2013, very strong 2013 postseason, and solid first half of 2014.

Now that brings us to the trade. Allen Craig and Joe Kelly are both still being paid by the Red Sox, which is not a good thing.

First, we’ll look at Craig. He’s slashing a historically bad .139/.236/.197 and he’s still owed $24 million dollars over the next two years. Currently, he’s not even considered for a spot on the roster, and I would not be shocked if he didn’t get an invite to Spring Training.

Last season in Triple-A, Craig hit .173 in 22 games and then only hit .250 in short-season Single-A ball, so essentially at the moment he’s a lost cause. I hope that Craig can relearn how to hit and be productive but I don’t see it happening during his time with the Red Sox.

Now that takes us to Kelly. He’s a good clubhouse guy and has shown glimpses of potential. While he is not the starting pitcher the Red Sox wanted, he could be a key reliever going forward.

During his three-year tenure in Boston he’s posted an impressive record of 18-8. However, ERA usually tells the truth when it comes to pitching productivity and a 4.70 ERA has been anything but impressive.

With that being said, Kelly could be a candidate to pitch some important 7th innings. He surely has the stuff to do it, possessing a 97 mph fastball with sinking action and a hard slider that sits at about 89 mph. But the expression “the harder they throw the farther they fly” holds true for Kelly.

If Kelly can be productive in 2017 it would help the Red Sox bullpen immensely and give it a lot more depth. However, if he continues to struggle, another team may very well be willing to take a chance on Kelly due to his upside and past success or he’ll simply see a lack of innings.

Lackey spent a season and half in St. Louis posting a 16-13 record with a 3.10 ERA. In 2015 he was stellar, posting a 13-10 record with a 2.77 and finishing 9th in NL Cy Young voting.

So from just a production standpoint, the Red Sox definitely lost this trade. However, it made sense at the time. The Red Sox weren’t contending at the time and Craig seemed very promising. After all, he hit .375 in the 2013 World Series against the Red Sox.

But I think the best part of this trade was the fact that it cleared the way for the rotation, allowing the Red Sox to make a push for David Price in free agency, acquired Porcello in a trade with Detroit and acquiring Chris Sale in a trade with Chicago.

The Lackey trade gets forgotten and is often considered a bust due to his 2015 success. The Red Sox got an average to below average span of years out of Lackey and I don’t think he would’ve had the same success in 2015 had he pitched in the AL East.

Not everyone can succeed in Boston and it’s very difficult to do so. Lackey is a prime example of that. Boston isn’t for everyone but if you play well and produce, it is the best place in the world to play.

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