• Their dreams of contending are over. By losing five in a row last week to the Blue Jays and Rays, the Red Sox removed themselves from that dreaded middle ground and essentially told their front office, pretty much once and for all, it was time to sell. ESPN.com's standings page now gives them a 1.5 percent chance of making the postseason. And for a front office as analytical as this team's, that's a clear signal to jump to the head of the sellers' line. So other clubs report the Red Sox are now shopping Lester and pretty much everyone else on the roster who can be a free agent ( Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, Burke Badenhop, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew), with the exception of Koji Uehara. But they've told clubs they don't feel pressured to move any of them unless they get "value" back. And not surprisingly, the two players on that list they've priced the highest are Lester and Miller. Officials of two clubs report the Red Sox have asked for one of their top prospects, plus a lesser prospect, just for Miller. So clearly, they're selling with purpose, not just to say they did.
It makes so much sense, in other words, for the Red Sox to deal Lester in the next three days that logic tells you it almost has to happen. But that doesn't mean it isn't risky if they have any hope at all of re-signing him.
For one thing, to bring him back next winter, dealing him would mean they probably have to win the free-agent bidding war. And remember, that bidding war is almost certain to include the Yankees. So whatever the Red Sox thought they could sign Lester for a few months ago, the cost just went up.
And there's something else to consider: At the moment, the only team Lester has ever played for is the Red Sox. And some players, one NL executive theorized, "don't want to have another team on the back of their baseball card. If they stay with one team their whole career, that means something. And if they go somewhere else, maybe their eyes get opened to something else, to other places and other ways of doing things."
"If they really want to keep him," an AL executive said, "they'd keep him now and give him a qualifying offer."
But what people around the sport really think is that this is a front office that already knows ownership isn't willing to commit to Lester for the years and dollars he's looking for. So it's time to make the best deal that's out there. And that time, stunningly, has arrived -- in the final hours of Trade Deadline Week 2014.
"I don't know how that happened," Byrd told ESPN.com. "You know, it's weird. If you have a 20-team no-trade, there's some thought that goes into it. But . . . somehow, it just worked out this year to where those were two of the four teams."
Byrd said the other two clubs on his list -- Toronto and Tampa Bay -- are on there because they play on artificial turf. But in the case of Seattle and Kansas City, "I'm not sure why I picked those two teams," he said.