To keep building on the previously discussed Beckett-Buchholz premise: It's important to remember that the sticking point for the Red Sox in making blockbuster trades for Adrian Gonzalez or Roy Halladay seemed to be their unwillingness to part with Casey Kelly or Ryan Westmoreland -- and not their unwillingness to part with Clay Buchholz.
That's why it's not a given that a Lackey deal -- multiple media reports have him in Boston taking a physical today -- means the Red Sox will turn around and trade Buchholz to San Diego for Gonzalez or to Detroit for Miguel Cabrera. Both of those teams still almost certainly will insist on Kelly and/or Westmoreland, and the Red Sox don't appear willing to trade either.
The other theory in play is that the Red Sox have reached an impasse in their negotations on a contract extension with Josh Beckett. The Beckett-Jon Lester tandem certainly served the Red Sox well this season, but Theo Epstein seems to believe that Beckett is prepared to walk away after the 2010 season.
Should Beckett walk and Clay Buchholz for some reason not pan out, the once-deep Red Sox rotation would be left with Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka and not much else, and Epstein would have no choice but to throw crazy money at Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee -- and that's only if neither is traded and/or signed to a contract extension at some point before the end of next season.
Lackey is Beckett insurance.
If the Red Sox landed Lackey for A.J. Burnett money -- $16 million a year or so -- they must believe Beckett is looking instead for CC Sabathia money -- $20 million or more a year. It's not hard to see why Beckett would classify himself as a pitcher more similar to Sabathia than to Burnett, but it's also not hard to see why the Red Sox would balk at paying $20 million a year for his services as he turns 32, 33 and 34 years old.
Rather than risk Beckett walking away, the Red Sox signed a pitcher who might be as similar to him as it gets without sharing a birthday and a mother:
Beckett: 3.27 ERA, 1.141 WHIP, 4.85 K/BB ratio
Lackey: 3.01 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 3.44 K/BB ratio
Beckett: 4.03 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 5.06 K/BB ratio
Lackey: 3.75 ERA, 1.231 WHIP, 3.25 K/BB ratio
Beckett: 3.86 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 3.62 K/BB ratio
Lackey: 3.83 ERA, 1.270 WHIP, 2.96 K/BB ratio
Lackey consistently has a better ERA, though not by much. Beckett consistently has better peripherals, but not by much. Lackey is even from Texas.
Lackey isn't an upgrade on Beckett. But Lackey would give the Red Sox an absolutely loaded starting rotation in 2010 -- and he'd ensure Lester would go each of his next four or five seasons with at least one co-ace at the top of the Red Sox rotation.