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The Red Sox can afford Jose Fernandez, but probably shouldn't

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Jose Fernandez is awesome. Jose Fernandez is also almost prohibitively expensive at present.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Fernandez is phenomenal. He's just 23 years old -- the same age as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Eduardo Rodriguez -- but is already three years into his big-league career, with Cy Young votes and a Rookie of the Year award behind him. In the year he needed Tommy John surgery, he still managed a 153 ERA+. In his return from TJ, he still managed a 133 mark. He's an exceptional young pitcher, one of the best in the game. And he's probably too expensive for the Red Sox to trade for.

"Probably," because it's not like giving up whatever it takes to get him is a poor idea: the end result is Jose Fernandez on your baseball team, and with apologies to Joe Kelly's recently acquired fifth rotation spot, that's inherently good. Can you imagine a rotation of David Price, Fernandez, Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and a revived Rick Porcello? Here, sit and think about it for a moment, don't rush to the next paragraph.

Got that out of your system? Good. Hopefully that was enjoyable for you, because considering what it would cost to acquire the three years he has left is not. We don't know precisely what Boston would have to give up, but we can probably figure it out based on the rumors out there for other teams.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks were deep into a Fernandez trade with the Marlins until they opted for Shelby Miller instead. The reported trade was built around Patrick Corbin -- probably Boston's closest equivalent to Eduardo Rodriguez, though Corbin is more established -- and 2015's first-overall pick and supposed future star shortstop Dansby Swanson. That by itself is quite the haul for Miami, except, there were also three others involved.

We don't know who, exactly, but chances are good that Aaron Blair -- who went with Swanson to the Braves for Miller -- was also involved. It's possible one of Archie Bradley or Braden Shipley, the D-Backs other major young pitchers, were also in the mix. The last player could have been a throw-in or just someone Miami liked, or it could have been another significant youth. According to Ken Rosenthal, four of the players the Marlins asked for were on the D-Backs' big-league roster, so a throw-in seems unlikely.

We don't know for sure, and definitely don't know if Bradley or Shipley or even Blair were involved, but the rumored Dodgers' offer for Fernandez makes it seem like any of those, if not more than one of them, were distinct possibilities. That's because the Marlins wanted the Dodgers' top prospect and starting shortstop in 2016, Corey Seager, as well as teenage pitching prospect Julio Urias, and the Dodgers' starting center fielder, 24-year-old Joc Pederson. And, wait for it: another pair of players.

The Sox can accomplish whatever rotation-upgrading goals they might still have through means other than trading five of their 10 or 15 best players under the age of 25.

So, what's the Red Sox equivalent? Probably something like Yoan Moncada and Eduardo Rodriguez, with at least one of Rafael Devers or Andrew Benintendi in the mix, along with two or three others? Xander Bogaerts and Rodriguez with Benintendi, Michael Kopech and more? Mookie Betts, Moncada, Rodriguez, Anderson Espinoza, and another? The Sox have all that, and if they managed to keep Betts and Bogaerts, you could even argue that it would be worth it since Fernandez is the return. But man, it's hard to fault anyone for saying no to what the Marlins are asking for.

It's also difficult to take what the Marlins say at face value -- in fact, they've been saying they have no interest in trading Fernandez, and that's clearly false. However, they've been pretty open about the fact that they'll only move Fernandez if they are blown away. They'll move Fernandez if it's clear that they are getting so much in return that not moving him would be stupid.

That's their right, and also exactly what they should be doing with a talent like Fernandez. It's also Boston's, and the right of everyone else, to quietly back away and do something else like trade for Shelby Miller or sign Kenta Maeda or tell the public that you're okay with hoping one of Joe Kelly or Henry Owens can lock down that fifth spot.

If the Red Sox didn't sign David Price, maybe things would be a little different. Maybe this would feel like the perfect player to cash in all those prospect chips on. The Red Sox did sign David Price, though, and the current rotation is in good shape between his addition, the subtraction of Justin Masterson, the revamped bullpen, and the starting pitching depth that will live at Triple-A until it's needed.

Fernandez, for the Red Sox, would be something of a luxury -- that word is probably a little strong since they could certainly use him, but they can accomplish whatever rotation-upgrading goals they might still have through means other than trading five of their 10 or 15 best players under the age of 25.

And hey, Fernandez is just 23. He's only under contract for three more years. If the Red Sox want him around that bad, they can sign him when he's a free agent in 2019. We already know they'll have the money to do that very thing even with David Price's massive deal around, and Fernandez will be so young even three years from now that whatever contract he signs is as close to a guarantee of a future opt-out as you can get.

Maybe save trying to acquire him for that time, especially if Price opts out and heads elsewhere that same winter. The Sox can afford not to wait, but they're also in a position to pretend Fernandez isn't even available. Let's hope they take the latter route for now.