The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired right-hander John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox, reports CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. In exchange the Red Sox will receive a haul of outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig and right-hander Joe Kelly, per MLB Network's Peter Gammons. In addition, the Cardinals will also receive minor league right-hander Corey Littrell from the Red Sox (according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com), as well as $1.75 million (per Yahoo's Jeff Passan). Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com was the first to report that a deal for Lackey was near completion.
The 35-year-old Lackey has a 3.60 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 3.63 K/BB, and 2.5 WAR in 137.1 innings pitched. Last year, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2012, the former Angels' ace was instrumental in leading the Red Sox to their third World Series championship in less than a decade, posting a 3.52 ERA and 3.1 WAR in 189.1 innings pitched.
While Lackey's performance over the past couple years has been exceptional, part of his rather sizable trade value comes from an incredibly team-friendly clause worked into the five-year, $82.5 million deal he signed with the Red Sox prior to the 2010 season. Worried about Lackey's past elbow troubles, Boston inserted a league-minimum 2015 option into the deal that was to be activated were Lackey to miss significant time due to injury during the contract. Lackey's 2011 Tommy John surgery qualifies him for this, and therefore, Lackey, who is making $15.25 million this season, will be owed just over $500,000 next year. A ludicrous bargain for a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Just yesterday, the Cardinals acquired Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians, shoring up an injury-riddled rotation that is currently without both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia. Lackey will slot in alongside Masterson, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, and the struggling Shelby Miller in a Cardinals rotation that currently ranks sixth in the majors with a 3.53 FIP, and fifth with a 3.38 ERA.
Littrell was a fifth round pick by the Red Sox in the 2013 draft, and has a 3.70 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 3.4 BB/9 in 100 innings at High-A Salem this season. The 22-year-old was not ranked among St. Louis' top 30 prospects entering the season by Baseball America.
The Cardinals are currently 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, and one game out of a Wild Card spot, so, in the thick of a pennant race, Lackey's addition should go a long way in helping St. Louis return to the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.
The #Red Sox are building a whole new team.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2014
Boston's shipping off of Lackey comes in the immediate wake of this morning's Athletics-Red Sox blockbuster that saw Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes shipped to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes. As demonstrated by these two deals, as well as last week's Jake Peavy trade, the Red Sox seem to have given up on 2014, and are now going full-blown at a 2015 run.
The 26-year-old Kelly figures to replace Lackey in the Boston's rotation. Kelly has had a rather disappointing season, earning the fifth starter job out of Spring Training, only to injure his hamstring in mid-April and miss three months. In 35 innings over seven starts this season, Kelly has a 4.37 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, 2.50 K/BB, and 0.2 WAR. He pitched well for the Cardinals last season, serving as a sort of swingman, making 15 starts and 22 relief appearances. In 124 total innings, he had a 2.69 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 0.5 WAR for the eventual World Series runner-ups.
Craig, meanwhile, appears to be the main piece coming back to Boston. After hitting .315/.373/.457 (fueled by a ridiculously high .368 BABIP) for a 134 wRC+ and 2.4 WAR last season, Craig has been terribly underwhelming this year, as he has hit just .237/.291/.346 with a 81 wRC+ and -0.4 WAR. The 30-year-old first baseman/outfielder is currently on a team-friendly five-year, $31 million deal that keeps him under team control through the 2017 season and carries a $13 million option for 2018.
Next year's Red Sox team should be among the most interesting clubs in recent franchise history, as the organization undergoes a youth movement and will be without several long-time regulars.