July 31, 2014 at 1:50 PM
Boston has completed its second major deal of the day, sending right-handed starter John Lackey and minor league lefty Corey Littrell , and $1.75 million to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for fellow righty Joe Kelly (pictured, right) and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig. The many parts of the story came from a variety of outlets. Lackey to St. Louis was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, while Kelly and Craig were reported by Peter Gammons. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported the cash portion of the deal, and Alex Speier of WEEI.com had the news of the inclusion of Littrell.
Kelly, 26, split time between starting and the bullpen until being moved to the rotation full time in mid-2013. The 6-foot-1 righty has a 3.25 in 266 major league innings, and started four playoff games during the Cardinals' run to the 2013 World Series. He has appeared in only seven games thus far in 2014, having missed over two months after injuring his hamstring in his third start of the season. He returned to the rotation just after the All-Star break and on July 19 had his strongest start of the year, beating Los Angeles with a run on four hits in seven innings.
Craig was one of the best players in the National League in 2012 and 2013, hitting .311/.364/.488 and finishing in the top 20 in MVP voting both seasons. He took over for Albert Pujols as the full time first baseman in 2012, and has split the subsequent seasons between that position and the outfield. Craig was in the midst of a down season in 2014, hitting just .237/.291/.346 with only seven home runs. However, the 29-year-old may be the victim of some bad luck, as his batting average on balls in play is 50 points lower than his career mark.
Littrell (pictured, left), 22, was Boston's fifth round pick in the 2013 draft out of the University of Kentucky. The left-hander has been with the High A Salem club all season, posting a 3.60 ERA and striking out 91 in 100 innings pitched. He is in the midst of a dominant July, allowing only three earned runs in 21 1/3 innings in his four starts. Overall he has been the bulwark of consistency on the Salem staff, leading that squad in starts, quality starts, innings, and strikeouts.
Lackey closes the book on his Red Sox career with a 47-43 record and 4.66 ERA, but he was much better in the last season and a half than that mediocre overall line implies. After signing as a free agent following the 2009 season, Lackey had a middling season in 2010 and then a disastrous one in 2011, posting the highest ERA in Red Sox history and leading the league in earned runs allowed. It was revealed that he pitched much of that year with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, costing him the entire 2012 season. Since the start of 2013, Lackey's ERA has been 3.55, with only 72 walks against 277 strikeouts in 326 2/3 innings. Lackey's contract is very team-friendly, as the elbow injury that caused him to miss 2012 also activated a team option for the 2015 season at the major league minimum.
Photo Credit: Joe Kelly from milb.com; Corey Littrell by Kelly O'Connor