John Lackey Needs to Be Traded to Complete Boston Red Sox Overhaul

Mike MattesContributor IIIAugust 29, 2012

Photo taken from
Photo taken from

Josh Beckett—finally—is no longer a member of the Boston Red Sox.

Hallelujah! Praise the Heavens! No longer will Beckett add to the festering abundance of filth that has plagued the Red Sox clubhouse since last season's epic September collapse.

Unless you've been living under a rock—or if you've yet to remove the paper bag over your head that has helped shield your eyes from yet another embarrassing season of Red Sox baseball—Beckett was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this past weekend, along with Adrian Gonzalez and the ludicrous contract of outfielder Carl Crawford, in one of the biggest blockbuster trades that the baseball world has seen in quite some time.

While the move did involve sending away one of the game's premier hitters in Adrian Gonzalez, the pros of the trade still seem to outweigh the cons when you consider the fact that the team was able to free up over $250 million worth of cap space over the next decade. Perhaps even more important than that is the fact that the team was finally able to remove one of the biggest factors that has been contributing to the team's toxic culture over the past year or so.

Even though the Red Sox were only able to receive some unproven young players—albeit very talented young players—from the Dodgers, it finally seems as though the front office has realized the importance of sacrificing short-term success in order to ensure the long-term health of the franchise.

Yet while I applaud Larry Lucchino and company for finally making an intelligent management decision, the fact of the matter is that much more still needs to be done.

Getting rid of Beckett, along with the incredible amount of money owed to such an under-performing trio of "superstars", was the first step in the right direction. There is, however, one more clubhouse troll who needs to be removed before the team can even think about regaining any shred of respectability.

That troll is the 33-year-old slug of a former All-Star pitcher named John Lackey.

Now these may seem like rather harsh words, but there is no doubt that Lackey is just an absolute leech that is sucking what little life there is left for the franchise that resides on Yawkey Way.

Since signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox before the 2010 season, Lackey has been about as effective as broken fan during a heat wave while he's been on the mound. Just to add more fuel to the fire, he has not pitched one inning for the Red Sox this season after receiving Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last offseason.

Not only did Lackey fail to post an ERA under 4.00 during his first two years in Boston, but now he is wasting away in the clubhouse while still getting paid over $16 million this season for his "services." What a sham.

If Lackey were simply biding his time, working hard and doing everything within his power to ensure that he would come back stronger next season in order to right the ship, then maybe Red Sox Nation could find it in their hearts to cut the guy some slack. However, all he has done this season is whine, cry, mope, fatten up, and double-fist beers in the Red Sox clubhouse as he watches the team fall deeper and deeper into oblivion.

Now that's the mark of a true champion right there, huh?

While most pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery do spend a lot of time with their respective ballclubs the next season while working with trainers in order to get them ready to play again, Lackey has—for no apparent reason—been allowed to actually travel with the team all season long in 2012.

Had he been a good little soldier focused on his duties and let the team play ball without any distraction, then this would certainly not have been an issue. Sadly, he has served as nothing more than Josh Beckett's partner in crime this year, and his presence is simply dragging the entire team down.

The only problem with moving John Lackey has always been that his contract is simply too overpriced for any other team to even consider taking him on unless the Sox were willing to pay most of the remaining salary on his deal. Furthermore, the fact that he will be coming back from such a big injury will scare teams off even more.

But there is hope, Red Sox Nation!

There may be a chance that John Lackey can be traded much more easily than originally thought once this forgettable 2012 campaign is over.

Although Lackey is due to earn over $30 million over the next two years of his contract, the team made sure to add an injury clause in his initial deal that will allow the team to add on a club option for 2015 at the league minimum—if they decided to pick it up. That means that instead of having to pay Lackey $16 million, the club that owns him would only have to bring him back—and only if they wanted to—for around $500,000 after the first five years are over, depending on what the league minimum is in 2015.

That makes his trade value improve from completely useless to somewhat respectable.

Even though this article has highlighted the fact that John Lackey has been nothing but a cancer to the Red Sox franchise over the last three years, it is not as though the guy has never been successful. In fact, he served as one of the top pitchers on the Los Angeles Angels staff for eight seasons and even helped them win a World Series during his rookie season in 2002. From 2003-2009, the highest ERA he posted in a season was 3.83, and he almost had a season with a sub-3.00 ERA in 2007 when he finished with an extremely impressive 3.01 mark.

So maybe—at risk of sounding clichéd—he just needs a change of scenery. It has worked with other disgruntled players in the past, and if the Sox were willing to eat even a portion of Lackey's remaining salary over the next two seasons, there could be a team—most likely in the National League—that may be willing to take a gamble on the former ace.

Of course, the Sox would have to be willing to receive a less-than-impressive package of players in order to move him; at this point, the team should consider anything more than a box of office pens and a handshake as a complete success if a trade were to actually happen.

The Red Sox have already started the long overdue process of gutting the team of all of the arrogant, pompous and spoiled children that make up the majority of their current 25-man roster, but the team must get rid of Lackey as well before they receive any praise for their efforts.

Getting rid of Beckett, Gonzalez, and Crawford was kind of like what happens when you decide to finally get rid of that old, ratty furniture that was doing nothing but stinking up your living room for ages.

But John Lackey is the ugly shag carpeting that still covers the entire area, and the home renovation will not be complete until that eyesore is eventually thrown out as well.

A big thank you goes out to the Red Sox brass for finally having the courage to get rid of Josh Beckett, but more house cleaning still needs to be done. Here's hoping that this surprising development turns into a much needed change in philosophy at Fenway Park.