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Nine Innings: Jon Lester's Departure is Similar to Another Great Boston Athlete's Goodbye

Playing nine innings while rooting for Cardinals-A's World Series and a Lackey-Lester Game 7 showdown ...

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1. I know the comparison isn't totally linear, but the aftermath of Jon Lester's departure feels the same to me as when Paul Pierce became a Brooklyn Net. You understand why they left, but that doesn't make it any easier to see them play elsewhere. Pierce has the longer tenure and the deeper roots. Lester has more championships. Both had their moments of self-inflicted nonsense, both dealt with some jarring real-life stuff, both delivered in big moments, both grew up here and grew to love it here. Lester is from Tacoma, talks like a Texan, now works in Oakland, but he's of Boston. Pierce was an Inglewood kid -- a Lakers fan, for heaven's sake -- who arrived via Kansas and, eventually, became the quintessential, ideal Boston athlete. Both weren't just excellent, winning athletes but admirable men. I hold out hope that both return here to play again someday. Even though they've left, this is where their legacies live on.

2. Threw this out there yesterday during the madness ...

... and was pleasantly surprised with the overwhelming response in the affirmative. I'd say 95 percent of the respondents said, yeah, of course the five-year, $82.5 million deal Lackey signed before the 2010 season was worth it, for one reason: He was crucial in winning the World Series last year, and that trumps everything. Who would have thought, even a year ago, that Lackey, that avid beer-and-chicken connoisseur who missed one full season and was historically brutal in another, would be held in such high regard upon his departure? And yet, after what he did last year, he's earned the admiration. I'm just surprised such a majority feels the same way.

Thumbnail image for cespedesyoenisfinn71.JPG3. Still sorting out my thoughts on the reshaped roster -- I think that will be my Sunday Mail topic. But for the moment, the condensed, visceral version on the return in the two chief trades: Love getting Yoenis Cespedes, if only for the entertainment value in this drab season. He will be a blast to watch, though I'm wondering what their long-term intentions are with him given he's a free-agent after 2015. Not that sold on the return from the Cardinals. Allen Craig has always raked until this year, but his foot problems seem chronic, and he is 30 years old. Maybe they bought low. But they may also have bought damaged goods. Joe Kelly is just a guy -- hopefully two or three of the kids at the top of the farm system surpass him in the rotation.

4. Next person to tell me that the Red Sox overvalue their prospects gets whacked upside the coconut with a copy of the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. If this trading deadline proved anything, it's that top prospects are more than just currency used to make a trade for an established player. If it's a kid your organization really believes in, one you believe will be a valuable, cornerstone player on his first contract, you do not trade him for immediate help. Even the spend-spend-spend Dodgers retained their prime prospects, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, rather than dealing them for someone like Lester, whose impact over the final two months would probably be negligible anyway given their place in the standings. My one lament with all of the moves the Red Sox made yesterday is that they didn't get a primo prospect back. But that's the market, and given all of the prospects the Red Sox have accumulated, they're in damn good shape to make a trade if one presents itself.

5. I've been convinced for a while that James Shields is the pitcher the Red Sox will pursue this offseason. Yesterday's developments only furthered that belief. He's on the wrong side of 30 -- he'll be 33 in December -- and as you may have heard, the Red Sox aren't that into long-term contracts for players of a certain age these days. But that's the catch: They wouldn't offer him a long-term deal, but something along the lines of three years and $54 million, or perhaps even the four/$70 mil that Jon Lester turned down in spring training. He's similar to Lester in that he's remarkably durable -- this should be his eighth straight season of at least 200 innings. The Big Game James nickname is a bit of a punch line given who he'd ostensibly replaced here -- I'd take both Lester and Lackey over him in any gotta-win scenario -- but he does profile as someone the Red Sox could use in 2015 and would be willing to pay.

6. Couple of you gave me good-natured grief because my colleague Eric Wilbur -- a.k.a. The World's Angriest Phish Fan -- beat me to the Is-This-All-About-Stockpiling-Talent-To-Eventually-Trade-For-Giancarlo Stanton? angle, which is definitely a very long name for an angle. All I can say is that it gets very tiring driving the bandwagon at times, and any time Wilbur wants to take the wheel while I catch a nap, I'm all for it. Also, to answer the question: Yes, it is about stockpiling talent. It. Will. Happen. And if it doesn't, hell, I'll just blame Wilbur.

7. Whaddaya mean they traded Stephen Drew? To the Yankees? HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME! In all seriousness, spare me your epithets. Here's my Drew epitaph: Important player on 2013 champs. Impotent player on 2014 chumps. Those reveling in the latter should also admit the former. I'm really curious to see what kind of ovation or acknowledgment he receives at Fenway tonight. I'll probably have to pretend those boos are really fans saying "Drewwwwww."

8. The Yankees are complicit hostages to the farewell tour, but it should be noted that there will be times this season when Derek Jeter is playing shortstop for the Yankees while two far superior defensive shortstops flank him in the infield. Drew will play second base -- and there's no doubt this is his audition to be Jeter's successor next year -- while Brendan Ryan, who is in the majors solely for his glove, plays on a corner. But at least Jeter is the best offensive player of the the three -- his .657 OPS trumps Drew's (.583) and Ryan (.474).

9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

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Ten years ago yesterday, the Red Sox did not acquire this Dave Roberts. Good thing since this one was 54 years old in 2004 and stole just 27 bases in his 10-year career. I like the one they got much better.

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