About a year after the Red Sox ran Terry Francona out of town, they are bringing back his coaching staff. Go figure.
John Farrell does not have to live up to Terry Francona's level of success in Boston—he has to be better than Bobby Valentine. The bar is low. Terry Francona gave the franchise its greatest moment ever in 2004 and won another World Series for good measure in 2007. Valentine delivered the worst Red Sox team since before the 1967 World Series, which essentially was the genesis of the current love affair between the team and Boston.
The Red Sox are not winning the 2013 World Series. There are too many holes on the team and too many quality teams in the American League for anyone to look at this edition of the Sox as anything other than a rebuilding team.
Their pitching staff is in shambles. At this point, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester can not be looked on as anything other than a third and fourth starter. And they are heads and shoulders better than anyone on the staff.
John Lackey missed the 2012 season due to recovering from Tommy John surgery. That was one of the few positive things that happened to the Red Sox last year. Lackey's miserable 2011 season, involvement with the fried chicken and beer controversy and rotten relationship with the fan base has turned him into one of the least popular Red Sox in history.
The only way the 2012 could have produced more venom from the fans would be if John Lackey were on the mound every five days.
But Lackey is still employed by the Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers were not gullible enough to have him included in the blockbuster deal this August.
So Farrell, the one time pitching coach for the Red Sox, needs to get something out of Lackey. He is under contract for more than $15 million in 2013 and 2014 with a vesting option for 2015.
As difficult as this may be for Red Sox fans to remember, he was once a talented pitcher. Maybe not talented enough to warrant a five year $82 million contract. But he was an innings-eating pitcher for the Angels who battled and won a ton of games in Orange County.
Farrell and his staff need to get him back to somewhere close to that pitcher. Get him close to 200 innings and an ERA close to 4.00. Get his WHIP closer to 1.200 and his ERA+ above 100.
Even if he could approach his 2010 numbers, where his 4.40 ERA and 99 ERA+ over 215 innings were the definition of mediocrity, it would be an improvement.
Once Lackey can show he can be a competent and reliable pitcher, guess what they can do?
They can trade him!
Essentially, Farrell's job is to polish Lackey up and put him up for sale like a baseball version of Antiques Roadshow.
Clear the final few bad pieces of 2011 and 2012 from the Red Sox and move forward to 2014 and beyond.
If Farrell can manage to make John Lackey worth anything, then his first job as Red Sox manager has been accomplished.