Ben Cherington has made his first announcement as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox: John Lackey will need Tommy John surgery during the offseason, resulting in his absence for the entirety of the 2012 season.
The good news is...well, actually, I don't think I need to say much there. Most in Red Sox Nation wouldn't mind being without Lackey for a year. The difference here is that now Ben Cherington will be forced to find a suitable replacement for Lackey instead of simply a back-up -- and we're not talking about someone who can match his historically bad numbers this season.
The other good news is that at least there's an excuse--and one that allows the Red Sox a virtually free year of Lackey at the end of his contract thanks to an injury provision built in by the team. While any of the 2011 Lackey is a net negative, if some of this can be explained away then at least there's a little hope that 2013 Lackey can be, if not good, then average. It's not something to depend on--the Sox had better make sure they don't have Lackey penciled in as anything more than a sixth starter, realistically--but the money is already spent so at least we'e not entirely resigned to spending that money on a 6+ ERA.
As it stands, the Sox' rotation for 2012 is three-men deep: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz. There's a chance that Erik Bedard could come back on the cheap, but there's not really a reasonable answer in the minor leagues yet (Weiland, Doubront, and Wilson will hopefully all have to prove themselves effective before Cherington will be willing to pencil them into the rotation given the causes for the collapse this year). That means the Sox will have to look elsewhere for at least one, if not two legitimate rotation arms.