MLB Trade Rumors: Are the Boston Red Sox Preparing to Trade Ace Jon Lester?

Kenny DeJohn@@kennydejohnAnalyst IIIFebruary 7, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02:  Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during their game on October 2, 2012 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Jon Lester is entering the final season of the five-year extension he signed with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2008 season.

Generally, most teams would be anxious to lock up their 29-year-old left-handed ace, but apparently, Boston has not yet approached Lester with extension talks (via Robert Bradford

Boston does hold a team option on him for the 2014 season, but could they be prepping themselves to deal him at the 2013 trade deadline?

The Red Sox have a pretty decent wealth of starting pitching. John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster and Lester will likely comprise the rotation out of spring training for manager John Farrell.

In the minors, they have prospects Matt Barnes, Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa waiting in the wings. By the second half of next season, there's a good chance that at least one of these prospects could be ready to contribute at the big league level.

To make room, Lester could be the odd man out.

It's a move that makes sense for the Red Sox if certain criteria are met. First and foremost, one of the aforementioned prospects would have to be in a position to produce in the bigs.

Secondly, the Sox would have to be on the outs in terms of playoff positioning. The American League East is an extremely competitive division. Judging by this past offseason, it doesn't seem as if the Sox have done enough to compete with the top teams.

If Boston is out of playoff contention, then trading Lester is a great idea.

He owns a career record of 85-48 with an ERA of 3.76 over seven seasons in the league. Last season was by far the worst of his career. His 14 losses were as many as he totaled between 2008 and 2009 combined, and his 4.82 ERA was more than a full run higher than 2011.

Even still, Lester has a generally consistent track record and all the makings of an ace. Teams would likely line up to acquire his services.

Buster Olney tweeted back in December that Boston was already listening to offers for Lester (along with Jacoby Ellsbury), so trading him may actually be more of a reality than some would like to think.

He would likely command a package slightly less valuable than the one that the Milwaukee Brewers received when they traded Zack Greinke at last year's trade deadline.

The Brewers acquired top shortstop prospect Jean Segura in the deal, along with two Double-A pitchers.

Teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers could be interested in acquiring him if the price is right, and the Red Sox should most definitely make a deal if the pieces fall into place.

If general manager Ben Cherington doesn't plan on extending his young ace, then there's no reason why he should be wearing a Red Sox uniform comes August 1 of next season.