The three biggest needs are:
RH hitting OF
At short, we may or may not pick up Scutaro, but even without him, we have Aviles and Lowrie who are both passable. Iglesias and his Gold Glove D should be up mid to late 2012, and longterm, I wouldn't call the position an issue.
As for a platooning OF, guys who fit this role are a dime a dozen on the FA market. I certainly wouldn't give up Middlebrooks for an elite OF, especially with Reddick and Kalish already projecting to compete for playing time.
But pitching, pitching is never cheap on the FA market, and is much more fickle. Just look at our buddy Lackey. We are lucky enough to have a solid 1-3 and plenty of passable guys (Weiland, Tazawa, Doubront) to compete for a back end spot. Lackey is unfortunately still going to be here in 2012, so there are plenty of guys here. However, of our top 3, 2 (Beckett and Buchholz) have both struggled with injuries and inconsistency. Lackey has been consistent, consistently bad, and I wouldn't rely on our young guns to pan out into potential #2 or 3 starters. A trade in which we acquire a young, talented starting pitcher would make our rotation Phillies-like when healthy, and still top 5 in MLB with one key guy injured. Having the best offense in the game, sacrificing one piece to get an impact pitcher would make this team formidable. Here is a proposed trade that could definitely work.
Red Sox acquire Randall Delgado and Joe Leonard for Will Middlebrooks and Jeremy Hazelbaker.
Now, this may leave us without a future 3B, which is definitely a sacrifice, but our rotation would look like: Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Delgado, Lackey. This is good because we would have strong pitchers 1-4. Also, if guys like Weiland or Doubront or even Wilson or Tazawa start tearing it up in AAA, Lackey would have some pressure put on him. If he continues to shoot the moon with his 6+ ERA, there is no reason that we wouldn't be able to push him into the pen or even cut ties with him. Additionally, we'd have the flexibility to move Miller, and one or two of the 4 aforementioned guys to the pen, bolstering our pen and preparing ourselves for the potential payroll crunch if we let Papelbon walk. THis trade would immensely boost our pitching staff for the present and future, as we could keep Lester, Delgado, and Buchholz for the next decade.
Delgado is young (21), has a low to mid 90s fastball that can get up to 97, and has two wipeout offspeed pitches in his changeup and curve. He made Keith Law's top 50 midseason and has always had more strikeouts than hits allowed. Control hasn't been too much of a problem, but command has. When he gets good downward plane on the ball, he is almost unhittable. He is a rare combination of good polish and good upside. As for Leonard, he has a prototypical third baseman's frame. He was picked in the third round, a few picks ahead of Sox prospect Sean Coyle. He has always shown good hitting for average, good discipline, but has not impressed with his power. But with his good size and batspeed, I think it will just take patience. He will start 2012 in either high A or AA.
As for what we give up, obviously the key loss would be Middlebrooks. But at third, we have Youk for 2012 and a relatively affordable option for 2013. I'm confident that he will be able to hold down fort at third for the next 2 years. If, because of decline or injury, he can't, there are other options out there. David Wright, who is under team control for another 2 years, just cleared waivers, and he is by far an above average 3rd basemen. You can then look at guys who fall under the Chase Headley category, a guy whose low-payroll team may not be able to afford locking him up longterm. Deeper in the system, Xander Boegarts and Garin Cecchini have impressed scouts, and although they are very far away, they have still been exciting. The other piece we give up, Hazelbaker, is more of a project, high upside player, but we definitely have a crowded outfield. Reddick should start for the big club in RF, but behind him, we will have Che-Hsuan Lin, Alex Hassan, and of course, Ryan Kalish.
The Braves, in my opinion, would accept this trade for a few reasons. Behind the aging Chipper Jones, they have absolutely nothing at 3B. As for pitching however, they have Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson as veterans, but also a plethora of young pitching talent. Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Delgado, and Arodys Vizcaino are all top 100 prospects, with Teheran being in many top 10 lists. They are all assets, and the Braves should likely use them to bring back some kind of return that would fill holes longterm. Middlebrooks is in the upper echelon of third base prospects. Guys in front of him include: Mike Moustakas, Brett Lawrie, and Manny Machado. Moustakas is also a consensus top 10 prospect, so you'd have to figure to get him you would have to build a package around Teheran, which I'm not sure the Braves would want to do. Machado is a top prospect on the O's, and I think he is as close to untouchable as it gets. Lawrie is certainly good, and I wouldn't doubt that AA would be willing to dangle him to get some team to way overpay as he always does. But the Braves don't have many options out there, so I think they would jump on this one.
Tell me what you guys think!