|Joe Kelly will try to figure it out in the minors (Yahoo Sports)|
In fact, I think it might be the worst trade Ben Cherington has ever made. Kelly and Craig have both been massive busts in Boston, while Lackey has continued to be an effective starter for the Cards. Kelly has not developed into a viable starting pitcher, much less the Cy Young winner he predicted he'd be. With a 5.67 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, he's been one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball this year. At this point, his best bet is to take his heater to the bullpen, where he may enjoy a renaissance a la Andrew Miller.
As for Craig, he has yet to rediscover the stroke that made him a .300 hitter and one of the league's best RBI men. Not even Fenway Park could help restore the former All-Star's bat, as he's hit a meager .130/.235/.192 since joining the Red Sox. His age, injury history, non-existent production, and costly price tag (he'll earn $11 million next year) makes him all but untradeable.
Meanwhile, Lackey has continued to thrive in St. Louis. He faded down the stretch last year but has bounced back strong this year, posting a 3.41 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 3.14 K/BB ratio. He's been one of the most reliable starters for the first-place Cardinals, leading the staff in innings pitched and helping pick up the slack in Adam Wainwright's absence. Even at 36, he shows no signs of slowing down.
At the time, trading a veteran starter in his mid-30s for a hard-throwing hurler in his mid-20s made plenty of sense, but taking on Craig's costly contract and expecting him to bounce back proved to be too much of a gamble. Boston really could have used Lackey in its rotation this year, and had absolutely no need for Craig given its already-crowded outfield situation when he arrived. Now it looks like the Sox are stuck with him, unless they can convince somebody that regular playing time will rejuvenate the soon-to-be 31 year-old's bat.
I still think Kelly has a future as a shut-down reliever, but that's not as valuable as a reliable starting pitcher, especially given the struggles of Boston's rotation this year. This trade is just one of many reasons why the Red Sox have underperformed this year, but it's now clear that they'd be better off had Cherington never done this deal.