If the Red Sox are contending, players like Jon Lester are unlikely to go anywhere. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looked at teams "on the bubble" today in his column, one of which is the .500 Red Sox, who sit 2-1/2 games out of a wild card spot in the American League. Essentially, this was to discuss whether or not clubs like the Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Brewers, and Rays should be buying or selling at the deadline, in the first season where there are two wild card spots for the taking.
In Boston's case, Rosenthal sees them buying, but "strategically" buying, likely unwilling to part with any huge pieces such as a Jon Lester or Josh Beckett. That makes sense, given that, even if Boston wanted to deal one of the two, in the midst of down seasons likely isn't the time where they would get anything close to a fair return.
Rosenthal also mentions that, according to a source, the Red Sox are "about $10 million over the luxury-tax threshold" at present. This is close enough where you start to think that, with the proper trades, they might be able to maneuver themselves under the luxury-tax line while maintaining in contention. Moving a few million dollar bodies like Ryan Sweeney ($1.75 million), Matt Albers ($1.08M), Kelly Shoppach ($1.35M), and Vicente Padilla ($1.5M) could bring Boston close to that goal, but unless they go into a full-on sale, that isn't going to be enough, not even close.
It would take moving almost everyone on a one-year deal to get to that point: think players like Aaron Cook and Cody Ross, in addition to the above. That, or find someone willing to take Daisuke Matsuzaka's entire deal and every penny that remains on it. Given Dice-K is on the disabled list and was his normal, hard-to-figure self in his time in the bigs, that's highly unlikely, as many seemingly-simple solutions tend to be.
Why would the Sox want to be under the luxury-tax? Getting under would reset the penalties, helping them avoid the heftier punishments for repeat offenders, and would also make them eligible for rebates on revenue-sharing. It's not a goal that you put in front of winning, but if Boston slips well under .500 over the next few weeks, it's something to think about on the eve of August.
Boston has reason to, as Rosenthal put it, strategically buy, as long as they think they're still in this thing. The Sox will have a better idea of where they stand in the next couple of weeks, as they face the Rays, White Sox, Rangers, Yankees, and Tigers leading in to the trade deadline. Things could fix themselves, or go to hell, very soon.