[Update]: You don't say?
I'm told Masterson acquisition does not necessarily take Cardinals out of the Jon Lester sweepstakes.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 30, 2014
Cardinals still could acquire Jon Lester, but that may require giving up Shelby Miller, who is currently in the rotation.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 30, 2014
So it turns out Masterson and Lester are not, in fact, comparable.
The Red Sox may have one fewer suitor for Jon Lester (and John Lackey, for that matter) as according to Peter Gammons the Cleveland Indians have agreed to a trade that will send starting pitcher Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Indians are trading Justin Masterson to the Cardinals— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 30, 2014
So...this is a little strange.
It's not hard to understand the Cardinals being reluctant to match the hefty price the Red Sox will expect for either Jon Lester or John Lackey. What it is hard to understand is how Justin Masterson really fills any need at this point.
In years gone by? Sure, Masterson has been very good at times. But the Cardinals are looking to make another deep playoff run, and it's hard to see how Justin Masterson's 5.51 ERA (or his 5.14 BB/9) contribute to that effort positively. There's no nice way to put it: the former Red Sox farmhand has been an absolute disaster.
Perhaps this is the Cardinals hoping the disabled list stint has fixed Masterson. That wouldn't be too far off from what the Red Sox did with Jake Peavy last year, but Peavy was looking quite a bit better than Masterson at that point in time.
That begs the question, then: does this mean the Cardinals are out on Boston's top pitchers? Probably. It's hard to imagine they'd give up one of their top-10 prospects for a pitcher just to make him redundant with an even larger trade shortly thereafter. But it's pretty impossible to look at Masterson and Lester and say one is a replacement for the other.