At 37-44, Boston is in fourth place in the American League East and seven games out of first place. The Sox are by no means done for the season. But after failing to sign Lester, a free agent to be after the season, to a long-term extension, it makes sense for the club to see what it can get in return for the left-hander.
The answer, in all likelihood, is a lot.
Look at what the Matt Garza trade fetched the Chicago Cubs last year. The Texas Rangers gave up two highly regarded prospects, Mike Olt and C.J. Edwards, in return for Garza, who like Lester was approaching free agency. However, Lester has proven to be a better pitcher than Garza and could nab an even bigger return.
Garza was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA when he was dealt. In comparison, Lester is currently 9-7 with a 2.92 ERA in 17 starts this season.
With Lester, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Brandon Workman, Felix Doubront, Rubby De La Rosa and Clay Buchholz, Boston has immense starting pitching depth. Trading Lester would allow one of the team's younger guys more time in the rotation.
Almost any contending club would be thrilled to land a pitcher like Lester at the trade deadline. The San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals are all contending teams that have have the prospects necessary to make such a deal happen.
Jeff Samardzija, David Price, Cliff Lee, Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel are just a few of the other starting pitchers likely to be available in the coming weeks. Lester would sit right there at the top of that list with Samardzija, Price and Lee.
With a month to go before the trade deadline, Boston fans do not have to worry about losing their ace just yet. According to Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com, general manager Ben Cherington is not ready to sell. Cherington said the team was:
Focused on 2014. ... We're trying to look realistically and be honest with where we are — I'm not sugarcoating where we are. It's not where we want to be. We've created a deficit for ourselves. But we still think the deficit is one we can overcome. We still believe in the talent, we believe we can be a good team this year.
So that’s what we're interested in doing, is trying to be as good a team as we can. If at some point, the picture changes, then it changes. Then we'll have to adjust at that point. But we're not at that point yet.
Trading Lester now, tomorrow or next week would be jumping the gun, but if that picture does change, Cherington would be foolish not to consider moving the 30-year-old left-hander.
The best-case scenario would be for the two sides to come to terms on a new contract—something the Red Sox would like to do, according to Fox's Ken Rosenthal. However, it appears the two are far apart, and Lester does not want to be a distraction during the season.
Rosenthal also brings up the possibility of the Red Sox re-signing Lester in the offseason following a trade but notes that players sometimes see trades as a “sign of rejection.”
Lester may not be an example of one of those players. According to Ricky Doyle of NESN, he recently said there would be no hard feelings should Boston move him.
If the Red Sox can not come to terms on a new deal with Lester, they should put him on the block if they remain behind in the standings. They do not need to jump at the first offer they get, but they should float his name around and see what is out there.
If they do that, multiple teams will be throwing prospects at the Red Sox in order to acquire the star's services.
Disagree with what Boston should do with Lester? Feel free to comment below or follow me on Twitter @GPhillips2727 to talk anything baseball.