USA TODAY Sports
Jon Lester could be the pitcher the Red Sox need to put them over the top, or he could be the pitcher who dragged them down in 2012.
If you're looking for a good bellwether for the 2013 Red Sox, you might want to go with Jon Lester.
It's hard to imagine, but what if Lester had been good last year? By the trade deadline, the Red Sox had lost 13 of Jon Lester's 21 starts. Imagine if they'd won 13 of them instead, as you might expect with the team's ace. That'd be 58-46 at the trade deadline, right on pace to finish with the wild card teams.
Of course, that's ignoring the injuries to David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks. Chances are the Sox still miss the playoffs. Chances are that we're worse off now, having not traded away Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett. But at the same time the 2012 season would've become less the story of a complete wreck, more the story of a contender felled by injuries, not unlike the 2010 squad.
That's not the story, though, is it? Jon Lester was bad, and as a result, so too were the Red Sox. There's obviously a big difference between a good version of any player and a bad version of any player, but with Lester the contrast was so great between 2011 and 2012 that it's hard not to pay special notice.
So, which Lester will the Red Sox get in 2013, and will it spell the difference between success and failure?