It's looking more and more like the Red Sox will trade Jon Lester by 4 p.m. Thursday.
Lester was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday, a clear sign that Boston is exploring trade possibilities.
Lester's situation with Boston is very similar to Cole Hamels' with the 2012 Phillies. Hamels was an impending free agent then with immense trade value, but instead of dealing him to the Angels or Rangers, the Phils re-signed Hamels to a six-year, $144 million extension.
The possibility existed then that the Phillies could trade Hamels and re-sign him during the ensuing offseason. It would have been a risky play for the Phils, because once he was in the door with his new team anything could have happened. But Lester's situation looks a lot less risky for the Red Sox. An impending free agent just as Hamels was in 2012, Lester has publicly stated that he'd like to re-sign in Boston and probably would not ink an extension with the team that obtains him.
“My ultimate goal would be to come back [to Boston]," Lester told Alex Speier of WEEI.com. "... I know that’s hard to do. Money doesn’t buy you happiness. For me, I want to be happy. I want to be comfortable. I want to be in a place that wants me and appreciates what I do.”
Hamels and Lester are both having career years. The Red Sox lefty is 10-7 with a career-best 2.52 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. He's struck out 149 batters in 143 innings and walked just 32, or 2.0 per nine innings.
According to various reports, teams interested in Lester include the Marlins, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Mariners.
The prospect pricetag for Lester would not be as rich as the package the Phillies are looking for in exchange for Hamels. Buyers must pick their poison in this case, choosing either parting with the less expensive package for a rental in Lester, or trading more young talent for an equal pitcher in Hamels who is under control through at least 2018.