Red Sox miss John Lackey in more ways than one

Bill Foley (@Foles74)
Contributing Writer

There is no debate over which team has benefitted more from last year’s trade-deadline deal between the Red Sox and Cardinals.

The Red Sox sent John Lackey, the winner of two deciding World Series games, to St. Louis for outfielder Allen Craig and Joe Kelly on July 31, 2014.
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Over the weekend, the Globe’s Nick Carado took a look at how that trade looks worsedaily for the Red Sox.

Kelly, who predicted he’d win the Cy Young before spring training, has been a disaster. He has a 1-2 record with a 6.35 ERA, and looks ticketed for a spot in the bullpen or Pawtucket.

The low point of Kelly’s season was watching him overpower the Yankees with his four-seam fastball only to get lit up with his secondary pitches on Sunday Night Baseball. Curt Schilling and John Kruk were there to painfully point out the obvious, too.

That’s the most frustrating thing about Kelly. He clearly has the ability to be a No. 2 starter, if not an all-out ace.

As for Craig, well, most of us have disliked him since that obstruction call in Game 3 of the World Series. He has done almost nothing good in a Boston uniform, and the thought of him being trade bait for anything of substance has long gone out the window.

The hope that he’ll return to the Allen Craig of 2011 through 2013 has disappeared like a Kelly slider over the Green Monster.

Mercifully, Craig and his .135 average was sent to Pawtucket this weekend.

Forget for a minute that the Red Sox would have to eat about $25 million if they designate Craig for assignment. Forget for a second that Lackey is the lowest paid player on the Cardinals’ 25-man active roster at $507,500 this season thanks to a clause in his contract that kicked in when he missed the 2012 season because of Tommy John surgery.

Forget that Lackey has a 3.20 ERA with 28 strikeouts and nine walks in six starts for the Cardinals in 2015.

The real reason the Red Sox are losing that trade so badly is the attitude Lackey took with him to St. Louis.

Most players hate to lose, but not many wear that fact on their sleeve like Lackey does. Reading his lips when the manager comes out to remove him from a game is something we all miss.

“This is my f---in’ guy” or “I f---in’ got this” are some of the examples of Lackey’s outburst as the manager slowly made his way to the mound.

Lackey, who will often channel his inner “Oil Can” Boyd and argue with himself as he circles the mound, seems to will himself to success at times. The bigger the game, the bigger the performance you get from Lackey.

For the most part, Lackey didn’t live up to the five-year, $82.5 million contract he signed with the Red Sox in December 2009. He was disappointing for the majority of those five years, especially when he didn’t pitch at all in 2012.

When it counted most, though, Lackey delivered.

He won Game 6 of the 2013 World Series. He also had a key relief appearance, pitching a scoreless eighth inning in Boston’s 4-2 Game 4 win in St. Louis.

In the ALCS, Lackey was the winning pitcher in the 1-0 victory over the Tigers in Game 3.

That attitude is fun to watch when Lackey is pitching. It’s also an attitude that could rub off on teammates, especially young pitchers who have the stuff to be great but lack the makeup.

Joe Kelly is a decade younger than Lackey and he has a better arm. Kelly is pushing triple digits on his fastball, though he almost seems afraid to use it.

If you could take Lackey’s mentality and put it in Kelly — or Clay Buchholz for that matter — we really would be talking about the Cy Young Award.

Of course, if Kelly had half of that mindset that drives Lackey, the Cardinals never would have traded him in the first place.