John Lackey Trade Will Boost St. Louis Cardinals To Top of NL Central

By Steve Ungrey
John Lackey Cardinals
Kim Klement — USA TODAY Sports

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey looked like he was headed to the Miami Marlins or the Kansas City Royals at one point. Now he is headed to Missouri, but not to taste the barbecue in Kansas City.

Instead, Lackey has made the St. Louis Cardinals better overnight thanks to a trade that sends the veteran pitcher to St. Louis in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.

The move is a win-win situation for St. Louis on all levels. For starters, because Lackey had Tommy John surgery, a clause kicked in with his contract that pays him only $500,000 in 2015. Lackey will get a chance to show off his vast skills, and if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason the Cardinals didn’t spend a lot of money to get him.

The players they gave up won’t be much of a factor as well. Although Craig came to the forefront during the team’s 2011 World Series run, his production slipped off over the past couple seasons and he never regained his batting stroke. Kelly also has been inconsistent, spending time on the disabled list this season with hamstring issues.

Boston can figure out what it wants to do with Kelly in the rotation, and Craig joins Yoenis Cespedes in a reworked outfield that figures to have a few casualties in the short term.

The big thing to take away from this is what happens to St. Louis the rest of the season. The acquisition of Justin Masterson on Wednesday, combined with Lackey’s acquisition today, should boost the Cardinals to the top of the NL Central.

The Milwaukee Brewers figure to stand pat at the trade deadline, and so do the Pittsburgh Pirates. Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin doesn’t want to upset the balance of power on the team and his starting rotation looks pretty good as it is. The Pirates have tried to find a front-line starter without success. The Cincinnati Reds look like they are out of the mix, as injuries to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips have killed the team’s pennant chances.

For now, the Cardinals have been proactive without giving up too much. This is a much better deal for the Cardinals than any deal for Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price would have been.

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