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Sunday Mail: If the Red Sox Trade Jon Lester, There's No Chance He Ends Up Coming Back

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Theoretically, the following three-step plan is genius, provided you can stomach the idea of Red Sox should-be lifer Jon Lester making 10 or so starts for another franchise before coming home:

1. Trade Lester now -- tomorrow at the latest -- for a genuine A-list prospect, someone like Mariners righthander Taijuan Walker or Dodgers third baseman Corey Seager.

2. Use the newly acquired Baseball America favorite as the centerpiece in a package to acquire a slugger who may look suspiciously like this:

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3. Re-sign Lester in the offseason.

Actually, should such an ideal sequence of events take place, we'd have to clear a spot for a fourth, punctuating step in the plan:

4. Name Ben Cherington the 2015 executive of the year even before the 2015 season begins.

Unfortunately, even if you believe the Marlins would be included to move Giancarlo Stanton before he starts to make money commensurate with his talent, there is one obvious flaw in this best-case-scenario-slash-daydream:

If Lester gets to free agency, there's no way he comes back. None.

The Red Sox, whether because they believe Lester's desire to stay here will overrule everything else in the end or because there are no exceptions to their no-big-contracts-for-players-over-30, have not made him an offer in the ballpark of what he will get should he hit free agency.

To put it another way:

That's the truth. And when those 10 teams -- hell, even if it's really only seven or eight -- start bidding against one another, the price will soar beyond $150 million.

It was mature of Lester to say he would consider re-signing here in the offseason should the Red Sox deal him away the coming days. I believe him.

But the Red Sox have shown no inclination (that we know of) to pay him close to what he will get when every other team has a shot at him.

If they trade him away, it's a goodbye, and there will be no hello again next spring. Oh, in theory, it's a hell of a master plan -- trade Lester for a prospect, trade said prospect for a star, re-sign Lester, profit.

Too bad it's already obvious the Red Sox will be the ones who won't allow it to happen. If Lester leaves, it won't be for a temporary stay elsewhere before coming back. He'd be gone for good. And that's going to be far more difficult to stomach than any brief departure.

On to ...

THE MAILBOX

Regarding Lester's contract. WWBBD? As in 'What Would Billy Beane Do? A's, Cards, Rays do quite well not caving to contract demands. Let them walk and keep the line moving.
-- Booker T.

johnsonmarkfinn725.jpgInteresting way of looking at it, Booker T. I can see trading Lester now as the rough equivalent of the Mark Mulder deal between the A's and Cardinals in December 2004, with brought Dan Haren and a couple of other pieces to Oakland. (Or maybe I'm just making this comp because Lester is Mulder's most similar pitcher according to baseball-reference.) But there's one factor here that applies to the Red Sox but not to three franchises you mention: They can afford to pay Lester, and certainly can withstand the financial fallout if it ends up being a bad contract 3-4 years down the road. Paying, even overpaying, an established player who fits certain criteria -- he thrives in the market, is durable, has improved in certain areas as he's aged -- should be an advantage for the Red Sox over the teams you mention. And that includes the Cardinals, who are regarded as a small-market team by Major League Baseball and have a freebie draft pick to show for it. And as much as I admire Beane, he's hardly flawless. Remember, his first move as Red Sox general manager would have been to trade Jason Varitek and try to acquire Mark Johnson from the White Sox to be the Boston catcher.

With all the vacations...do the summer ratings that D&C are surging really matter? Advertisers can't possibly take that period seriously with all the fill-ins and sporadic listeners. This ratings spike Minihane talks about seems ridiculous to boast about. And of course T&R's June numbers were down from the previous year when there was a Bruins Stanley Cup run.
-- Mark

It matters in the sense that they've closed the gap, sure. I mean, you're right, it's not a big time for advertisers; summer is the least-meaningful period of the year -- sports talk ratings typically drop while the music stations rise. But it still counts. Circumstances went WEEI's way this spring -- the Bruins did go out early and there was much more interest in the Sox entering this season than last -- but the summer is their opportunity to prove that there's legitimacy to the progress. And so far, that has happened.

What's the likelihood Ainge makes a substantial trade before the season? I'd say 50 percent, where he puts together a package of pieces (Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Marcus Thornton, draft picks, etc.) to upgrade at SF or add depth at the 4 and 5.
-- Phil

I'd put it at much higher than 50 percent -- they have, what, 18 players under contract? And if I'm not mistaken, the roster currently breaks down to eight point guards, nine forwards, and Joel Anthony. The Kevin Love situation is holding everything up, I think, at least in regard to the Celtics. I'm sure they recognize at this point that they're not getting him, but they could be the third party in a trade. Once he inevitably ends up in Cleveland, the Celtics will get on with going about their business, whether that means moving Green somewhere, a Rondo deal to Sacramento or Houston, or things we haven't even considered yet. But their opening-night roster will be considerably different than this one.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

Caught his show up in Portland last week. Can't praise it enough. Anyone see him in Newport?

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