-- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington insisted the team's front office is not giving up on 2014 just yet, and said the next couple of weeks are crucial in determining what the team does at the trade deadline.
"We're going to do whatever we feel gives the Red Sox the best chance to be as good as possible as quickly as possible," he said. "And we are not conceding 2014 with that statement."
Appearing on WEEI's "Dennis & Callahan" on Thursday morning, Cherington said he feels the Red Sox are capable of being better than several of the teams ahead of them in the standings, and that there's a chance for a second-half run.
"We've put ourselves in this position, so the math is working against us a little bit," he said. "But stranger things have happened. We don't see why we can't win more games than most of the teams ahead of us."
He acknowledged that, at this point, the odds are against a Red Sox resurrection, and that the front office is engaged in trade conversations as the July 31 deadline nears.
Cherington also took the blame for the team's worst first half in nearly 20 years, pointing to an unproductive offense as the deadly flaw.
The defending champions entered the All-Star break nine games below .500 (43-52) and 9.5 games back in the AL East. They rank last in the league in runs, slugging percentage and total bases, and are hitting a dismal .246 as a team.
"Our pitching has been good enough to win, we just haven't produced offensively. And as I look at that, I guess what I would say is that I didn't do a good enough job building a complete offense," he said.
"It certainly wasn't our intent. We thought we would have that. We thought we had reason to believe we could have that going into the year, but the reality is we have not," he continued. "And that has hamstrung our ability to win games. ... We're trying to remedy that in ways that make sense. It takes time. But that's been the flaw of the team more than anything else, so I take responsibility for that."
When asked how he would characterize the contract discussions with Jon Lester, Cherington emphasized that the two sides are having continued conversations and the recent rumors and reports haven't come from the key parties involved.
"I think a lot has been written about this. ... If you ask John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, myself, if you ask Jon Lester, if you ask Seth Levinson, I think what all of those people would say is that there's a strong relationship here that goes back 12 years and that strong relationship will allow for a continued dialogue and a detailed conversation at the right time," he said.
He said that Lester is still focused on winning games.
"Jon feels like right now is the time to focus on the field," he said. "We're still trying to win."