The Red Sox are apparently on some sort of accelerated turn-of-the-century-Marlins plan, where they win, bottom out, and rebuild, but it only takes them a year to go from peak to trough and back again. After landing Yoenis Cespedes earlier today, Boston has traded starter John Lackey to St. Louis for utilityman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly.
Craig and Kelly are having rough years, but they are two quality major leaguers and both under team control for a couple more years—not a bad haul at all. This was expected to be a fire sale, but with the AL East a shambles, Ben Cherington and the Red Sox appear to be targeting 2015 as opportunity to compete. If you're a fan, you can't really ask for more than that—though the pitching leaves a lot to be desired.
How drastic has the overhaul been in Boston? Per Peter Abraham, of the six men who started double-digit games for the Red Sox in their 2013 championship season, five—Lester, Lackey, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, and Jake Peavy—are now gone.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, get in Lackey a proven playoff starter in a year when the NL appears wide open. And because of a clause the Red Sox put into his contract in 2010 to insure against a pre-existing injury (which flared up in 2012), Lackey will only earn the MLB minimum $500,000 next season. That flexibility no doubt sweetened the return for the Red Sox, but this trade feels like a win for both sides.
Update: The Red Sox have since moved Andrew Miller to the Orioles for lefty prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. If you were wondering where they expect their future starting pitching to come from, their system is pretty loaded right now.