Red Sox smartly avoided making blockbuster deal, trading away prospects

Posted July 31, 2012, at 11:24 p.m.

At times the deals you don’t make are just as important as the deals you make.

That was the case with the Boston Red Sox at the trading deadline on Tuesday.

They made a couple of minor deals instead of a blockbuster trade to try to make a push for one of the two wild-card berths.

They picked up lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow from Arizona for outfielder Scott Podsednik and reliever Matt Albers which could move lefty Franklin Morales back into the starting rotation. They also traded first baseman Lars Anderson to Cleveland for knuckleballer Steven Wright, who was assigned to Double-A Portland.

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Anderson has been a disappointment and a knuckleballer like Wright is intriguing.

The Red Sox aren’t going to earn a wild-card spot. They will miss the playoffs for the third straight year after making them six times in a seven-year span including World Series championships in 2004 and 2007.

They may have been just four games out of a wild-card berth before Tuesday’s game against Detroit, but there were five teams ahead of them.

They have been held to three runs or less in 45 of their 103 games and two or fewer in 27.

And slugger David Ortiz’s right Achilles strain that has landed him on the disabled list isn’t improving as quickly as he would like.

Don’t be surprised if that proves to be a hindrance the rest of the season.

The Red Sox just aren’t the same team without him in the lineup.

Injuries have certainly been a major reason behind their struggles (52-51 entering Tuesday’s game) but they have regained most of the injured players (LF Carl Crawford and CF Jacoby Ellsbury).

There is nothing to indicate that supposed aces Josh Beckett (5-9, 4.57 earned run average) and Jon Lester (5-8, 5.49) are going to begin pitching like front-of-the-rotation starters on a regular basis.

They have been pitching more like No. 4-5 starters.

And now Beckett may be sidelined after injuring himself Tuesday night.

Lester has lost his confidence and has become a finesse pitcher who tries to nibble corners rather than attacking the hitters like the power pitcher he once was.

Beckett has lost velocity off his fastball and he doesn’t have consistent command of his curve and changeup.

Trading Beckett and Lester would have been a mistake.

The Red Sox wouldn’t have received very much in return because of the way Beckett and Lester have pitched dating back to last Sept. 1.

If Beckett and Lester can finish strong, the Red Sox might be able to move them in the off-season and receive some quality players in return.

Or they could keep them if they finally pitch up to their potential.

The Red Sox have some good young talent in the minor league system like outfielder Jackie Bradley of the Portland Sea Dogs and the Red Sox shouldn’t trade prospects for someone who may help them win a few more games but isn’t going to get them a wild-card berth.

The Red Sox are in a difficult position.

You can’t rebuild in Boston, especially with a $173,186,617 payroll, third highest in the major leagues behind the New York Yankees ($197,962,289) and Philadelphia Phillies ($174,538,938).

It isn’t tolerated by the media or the fans.

You have to contend every year and they should barring unforeseen circumstances.

Shortstop Pedro Ciriaco (.343) has been a pleasant surprise and has been an important contributor at a time when regular shortstop Mike Aviles (.252) was mired in a slump.

But let’s see how he fares getting regular duty.

The Red Sox lineup should be solid for the future if they can stay healthy, particularly if Crawford can hit the way he did for Tampa Bay, and the bullpen has been much better than anticipated, particularly Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller. Scott Atchison has also been impressive but he will be sidelined indefinitely with arm problems.

Andrew Bailey, who was 24-for-26 in save opportunities for Oakland last year, will start a lengthy rehab stint on Wednesday after thumb surgery and if Daniel Bard can ever find himself, that will bolster the bullpen even more.

So the question mark for 2013 will be the starting rotation.

Clay Buchholz has been pitching like a top-two starter; Felix Doubront has overachieved as a starter and Morales has looked good in his starts.

Aaron Cook can be effective but if he elevates his sinkerball, it often lands in another county.

Remember, John Lackey will be back next year after having Tommy John surgery last fall.

It’s unknown whether that’s a good thing or not.

Then there’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, but don’t expect to see him in Boston next year.

If the Red Sox fade out of the wild-card picture, they should use the remainder of the season to take a look at some of the youngsters in the organization and prepare for 2013.

The rest of the season will also be a good chance for Red Sox brass to see if Bobby Valentine is the right fit to manage the team.

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