BOSTON (AP) — The last-place Boston Red Sox have traded pitching for power. Now they can use some name tags to stick on the jerseys of the newcomers.
Nine months after winning the World Series, the Red Sox unloaded five key members of that championship team Thursday, bringing to seven the number shipped out in a five-day span.
Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes, Andrew Miller, Stephen Drew. All gone. Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Joe Kelly. Welcome to Boston.
“It speaks to where we are as a team,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “There’s nothing sort of celebratory about this. These moves are made because, collectively as an organization, we haven’t performed well enough, in this year anyway.”
The Red Sox were 13 games out of the AL East lead when the day began.
A day off for the players was an around-the-clock marathon for team officials as they considered numerous possibilities before Thursday’s trade deadline.
They parted with their two best starters, sending left-hander Lester to the Oakland Athletics and right-hander Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals. Then they weakened their bullpen by trading lefty Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for Double-A left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez one day after Miller struck out the side in his final inning with Boston.
They also dealt away two underachieving hitters — outfielder Gomes going with Lester to Oakland and shortstop Drew heading for the rival New York Yankees for third baseman Kelly Johnson.
The Red Sox did get two key offensive pieces, outfielders Cespedes from Oakland and Craig from St. Louis. They provide power at a position that has produced just 17 homers this season, matching Cespedes’ total for the season.
Right-hander Kelly also came from the Cardinals and will go immediately into the rotation. He is 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA and has spent most of the season on the disabled list
“It didn’t make any sense to us to trade both Lester and Lackey unless we were getting at least one major league starting pitcher back, if not major league players, total, back,” Cherington said. “It just would have made the next several months even more difficult to build to what we want to be.”
He’s intent on building a contending team for 2015.
The trades give the Red Sox the last two months of the season to assess their promising young starters. Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Duckworth and Allen Webster already are in Boston. Anthony Ranaudo will be promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket and make his major-league debut Friday night against the New York Yankees.
No matter how they and others might perform, Cherington expects to seek starting pitchers in the offseason.
Lester, who can become a free agent after the season, has said he hasn’t ruled out returning to Boston.
“He’s an Oakland A right now so I don’t think it’s right for me to talk about that,” Cherington said.
The Red Sox offered Lester a four-year, $70 million contract in spring training. His market value has risen with his 10-7 record and 2.52 ERA but said he didn’t want to focus on negotiations during the season.
After being traded, Lester tweeted, “Thank y’all cant tell you how much your support means to me and my family. Excited to contribute to a very talented @Athletics team!”
Another tweet from designated hitter David Ortiz: “Wishing my man Jon Lester all the best”
Cherington said third baseman Will Middlebrooks will be promoted from his rehab stint at Pawtucket before Friday’s game and struggling rookie Xander Bogaerts, who moved to third when the Red Sox signed Drew on May 22, will return to shortstop.
Right fielder Shane Victorino could go on the disabled list with a back problem and Cespedes will start in his place until he’s healthy, Cherington said.
Lester and Lackey leave five days after Jake Peavy was traded to the San Francisco Giants and one day after Felix Doubront went to the Chicago Cubs, leaving Boston with just Clay Buchholz as a member of its original rotation.
“That is not something we would have expected to do at the start of the season,” Cherington said.
The Red Sox also sent cash and minor league left-hander Cory Littrell to St. Louis.
Miller was in demand because of his 2.35 ERA and the fact that he’s a lefty who makes relatively little money.
“We had more calls on Andrew Miller than any other player on our team,” Cherington said.
In their final trade of a busy day, the Red Sox sent Drew to the Yankees in the first trade between the rivals since 1997.
“If we weren’t in the position that we’re in, which I take responsibility for,” Cherington said, “these trades don’t happen.”