Red Sox trade John Lackey to Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly

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Not satisfied with adding Justin Masterson to the rotation yesterday, the Cardinals have added another veteran starter by acquiring John Lackey from the Red Sox. And, much like Boston’s deal to get Yoenis Cespedes from Oakland for Jon Lester, the Red Sox have prioritized the present by getting veterans Allen Craig and Joe Kelly in exchange.

[MORE: Trade deadline tracker]

Not only has Lackey bounced back from a lost 2012 season with two consecutive solid years as a mid-rotation starter in Boston–posting a 3.55 ERA in 50 total starts since last season–he’s under contract for 2015 at the bargain price of $500,000 thanks to an odd wrinkle in his original deal with the Red Sox.

In return the Red Sox get a rotation replacement for Lackey in the 26-year-old Kelly, who has a 3.25 ERA in 38 career starts. However, his modest 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings in the National League are reason for skepticism that he’ll thrive long term, especially in the American League.

[MORE: Breaking down the Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes trade]

Craig had three straight excellent seasons for the Cardinals, hitting a combined .312 with an .863 OPS in 328 games from 2011-2013, but he’s collapsed this year at age 29 with a .638 OPS and has three years and $25 million left on his contract. St. Louis has stud prospect Oscar Taveras ready to replace Craig in the outfield and in the lineup.

Boston is betting on a big bounceback from Craig and Kelly’s ability to step into Lackey’s rotation spot with similar results. St. Louis is betting on Taveras developing into a star, Lackey being better than Kelly for the next one-and-a-half seasons, and Craig staying on the decline heading into his thirties. It’s a helluva interesting deal.

Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).