It was not too long ago when Cliff Lee shocked the baseball world by announcing a return to the Philadelphia Phillies. Lee spurned a massive contract offer by the New York Yankees and instead returned to the City of Brotherly Love.
When the news spread of Lee's return to Philadelphia, fans and experts all across the league debated about whether Lee's return gave the Phillies the best pitching rotation ever assembled.
Lee joined stars Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, giving the Phillies—on paper—as good of a rotation as there ever has been in professional baseball.
Fast-forward two-and-a-half years. The "Big Four" pitching rotation never lived up to its hype and Lee has yet to advance past the National League Division Series in his second stint with the Phillies.
Despite having reasonably good numbers for the past two-and-a-half years in Philly, Lee's return has not, for one reason or another, lived up to the hype.
Therefore, it is no surprise to hear Lee's name come up in MLB trade rumors.
This is the time of the season when the cream of the league is rising to the top and the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders. The standings are starting to shape up and teams are starting to be labeled as "buyers" or "sellers" come the trade deadline.
This leads us to Lee. Despite easily being Philadelphia's best pitcher so far this season, posting a 7-2 record with a 2.45 ERA, the 'Fightin' Phils sit 7.5 games behind the NL East division leader Atlanta Braves and are losing ground rapidly.
As the core of the Phillies is not getting any younger or healthier (see: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins), some believe that it may be time to trade some of their biggest producers—including Lee—in order to start building for the future.
With Beckett possibly retiring to staying on the DL long term, the Dodgers may want to try and make a big move for the future and one option could be to try and trade for Phillies starter Cliff Lee, as they may want to unload him depending on where the team is at the deadline.
Clearly, this trade would depend on the health of Josh Beckett.
Not only has Beckett had trouble staying healthy, but when he has been on the mound, he has struggled to say the least. Beckett has gone 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA and it would be safe to say that the Dodgers can put little confidence in their starting pitcher.
If Beckett continues to show that he cannot stay healthy or produce when given the green light by the team doctor, then a trade to Los Angeles may certainly be in the cards for Lee.
Furthermore, CBSSports.com's Mike Axisa has listed several possible trade destinations for the Philadelphia ace.
One of the more intriguing options for Lee would be the Boston Red Sox. Currently sitting 2.5 games atop the AL East above the Baltimore Orioles, Boston could find itself in great position to become a buyer come the trade deadline.
While the BoSox have Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz sitting pretty at the top of their rotation, trading for Lee would be a significant upgrade over Felix Doubront, who has posted a less-than-impressive 4.88 ERA this season.
Acquiring Lee would give the Sox one of the best rotations in the league and instantly make them one of the favorites from the American League to reach the World Series.
If Boston continues its impressive season throughout the early months of the summer and the Phillies continue on the decline, don't be surprised to see Lee joining forces with the likes of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury at Fenway Park.
Given the strength of Boston's farm system, which was ranked sixth-best in the league by Baseball America, then it is safe to say that the Phillies can get a lot in return and start building for the future by trading Lee.
However, when all is said and done, trades come down to where teams are at the trade deadline.
If, for some reason, the Phillies are able to get themselves back into the hunt for the NL East title, then there obviously would be no reason for the Phils to deal Lee.
However, if the Phillies are unable to get healthy and make a push during the next six weeks or so, then it is entirely possible to see Lee in a new uniform come July or August.