Jon Lester Is the Best Trade Chip the Boston Red Sox Have

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIJune 16, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 16:  Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning on June 16, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

I'm not ready to blow up the 2012 Boston Red Sox.

That being said, within the next three to four weeks, general manager Ben Cherington and Co. will need to make some very tough decisions. Namely, shall they become buyers or sellers?

Until some of the injured troops can return to the lineup, it is not an easy situation to gauge. 

All things considered, even if the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Cody Ross, Andrew Bailey, etc. come back healthy and strong within the next few weeks, the time to assess what the Red Sox really are will be fleeting.

Can you really rely on two weeks (at best) watching returning players to judge if this team can make a significant push towards the playoffs?

I find it unlikely, at best.

That leaves Cherington to play the role of fortune teller. Can this team be brought back to life?

Obviously, that's hard to say. What can be said, though, is the lack of chemistry and identity this Red Sox team is facing.

I hate to say it, but this roster reminds me of the New York Mets of the early 2000s—a bunch of big names on the roster with big contracts and not enough chemistry to win.

So, should the Red Sox come to the conclusion that the season is a loss, the team needs to rebuild and they don't care about continuing the facade otherwise known as a sellout streak, the best chip they hold is Jon Lester.

The 6'4" lefty is under team control through 2014 at relatively short money ($11.65 million for 2013, with a $13 million team option in '14.)

He is 4-4 on the season with a deceptive 4.00+ ERA. Lester has been pitching well lately, going 3-1 in his last seven starts.

Historically, he is a 3.61 ERA pitcher who will give you eight or so strikeouts per start and win 16 games. There are plenty of contenders who would love that type of contributor. If the Red Sox are leaning towards selling off some of their chips, Lester provides them with the best opportunity at packaging up some waste that other teams may not want to touch otherwise.

At the very least, he would bring back the highest return, likely in the form of high level team prospects that are major-league ready.

As much as fans may be tied to some of the players on this roster, if the Red Sox decide to sell, be prepared to see big shake ups, not just minor blips on the team radar.