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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lester sweepstakes ends Thursday afternoon

George Scione

Jon Lester may be on his way out of town before free agency even hits. It could be as soon as Thursday at 4 p.m.

It’s trade deadline week in Major League Baseball. ...

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Jon Lester may be on his way out of town before free agency even hits. It could be as soon as Thursday at 4 p.m.

It’s trade deadline week in Major League Baseball.

The Boston Red Sox hold a few key pieces that could net a decent return, while aiding the nine American League and eight National League teams within four games of a postseason spot as of Monday.

Aside from Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, every veteran should be on the block. And the only reason Ortiz isn’t would the fact that no team – even with his postseason prowess – wants to take on an aging player who is only a designated hitter. He may have been decent trade bait had the Red Sox not extended him for another season at $16 million.

With Petey and Papi off the table, there is still plenty for those 17 teams to drool over. The four best options are all pitchers.

One of the hardest roles to fill during a playoff run is that of set-up man or closer. Hello, Koji Uehara.

On the front end, there’s Lester – who would be on the untouchable list if John Henry and Co. didn’t botch contract negotiations – plus John Lackey and Clay Buchholz.

Lackey is not only a solid top-three in the rotation, he comes on the cheap. Due to a club-option clause the Red Sox hurler agreed to when signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal, the $15.25 million he’s making this summer will drop to the league minimum of $500,000 next season.

Buchholz is still all about potential. When he’s healthy and on, he’s lights out. Unfortunately, his potential may not garner as much as it would have a few years ago. Still, he’s an arm that’s available at the trade deadline.

As far as rentals go, Lester would be the ultimate prize for a contender. He’s certainly worth more than what the Chicago Cubs got for Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland Athletics.

If the Red Sox do trade Lester it better be for more than Matt Kemp – whose bat is invisible and whose defense is a liability.If the Dodgers want to add Lester to an already stacked rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox need to land more than Kemp – for sure.

There are too many contenders interested in Lester to settle for Kemp. In L.A., this means getting center field prospect Joc Pederson in return. Pederson has power, speed and youth on his side. That’s what the Red Sox need – young outfielders with good bats.

It’s all pretty simple, at least regarding the Dodgers rumors: No Pederson, no deal.

Then again, it was all pretty simple from the first day of spring training – sign Lester as your ace at a discounted rate of $125 or $130 million for five years.

What’s $30 million between friends, anyway? Especially World Series-winning friends.

George Scione can be reached at 594-6520 or gscione@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Scione on Twitter (@Telegraph_BigG).