The team's official Twitter feed confirmed that the 30-year-old will be scratched from Wednesday's start, sparking speculation that he will be dealt before Thursday's trade deadline:
However, it's not time to throw your No. 31 Red Sox jersey on eBay quite yet. According to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, a trade is not imminent:
Still, rumors surrounding Lester have been heating up over the past couple of days. The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham reported earlier on Tuesday that the Sox "want to deal him," and this move suggests at the very least that they are close to finding a trade partner.
If that indeed happens, there would be many disappointed individuals in Boston, including fellow starter Clay Buchholz, via ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald:
Lester has spent the last nine seasons with the Red Sox, has won 110 games and has been an important part of the franchise's last two World Series runs, but he is currently in the midst of his best season.
Through 21 starts, the left-hander owns a sparkling 2.52 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. His strikeout/9 ratio (9.4) is the best it has been since 2010, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.66) is easily the best of his career. Moreover, with trade talks increasing, he has only gotten better: In four July starts, he has been nearly untouchable, giving up three earned runs in 29.0 innings (0.93 ERA).
Tuesday morning, he appeared to address the rumors via Twitter:
If he's traded, Lester may just be a midseason rental, as he's set to hit free agency in the winter. Still, he should be able to return an impressive haul for the Sox.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles were the front-runners for Lester, while Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan and Tim Brown called the Pirates a "dark-horse candidate."
The latter would certainly make sense for both sides. The Buccos, in the middle of the NL Central race, rank just 14th in starting-rotation ERA and could use an upgrade. With arguably the best farm system in baseball, they could also entice Boston into a deal.
In any case, it's starting to look more and more like Lester will be wearing a new uniform for the first time in his career.