Cards Add Lackey, Ship out Craig and Kelly

The St. Louis Cardinals added pitcher John Lackey and a minor leaguer for pitcher Joe Kelly and 1B/OF Allen Craig.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced Thursday afternoon that they have acquired veteran right-handed starting pitcher John Lackey, minor league left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell and cash considerations from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig. Lackey joins right-hander Justin Masterson who was acquired yesterday from Cleveland in a newly-fortified Cardinals starting rotation.

Lackey, 35, is among the American League leaders in wins (11) this season and has posted a 3.60 ERA in his 21 starts (11-7, 3.60 ERA). He owns a career mark of 149-114 with a 4.02 ERA between the Angels (2002-09) and Red Sox (2010-14). The 6-6, 235-pound Lackey is 6-5, 3.03 ERA career in postseason play, making 19 appearances.

Littrell, 22, was the Red Sox' 5th-round draft selection in 2013 from the University of Kentucky. The 6-3, 185-pound lefty was 5-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) for Salem of the Carolina League (A).

Brian Walton’s take: The Cardinals made a stunner of a trade here, getting a proven winner in Lackey, while apparently admitting they cannot fix whatever ails Craig and selling low. I have never had the feeling the Cardinals were as high on Kelly as his results had indicated.

Littrell is not among Baseball America's top 30 prospects in the Boston system for 2014, nor among their top eight left-handed pitching prospects. He has been assigned to A-Advanced Palm Beach.

One winner in the deal is obviously Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras, who should take over daily action in right field now vacated by Craig. On the other hand, expecting Taveras to fix the Cardinals ailing offense would be unfair.

Unlike pending free agent Masterson, Lackey has a team option for 2015 at the major league minimum salary of $500,000 due to a prior injury clause in his contract. Picking up that deal for next season should be a slam dunk.

The Cardinals lose three and a half years of control of Kelly and a maximum of four and a half seasons remaining on Craig’s current contract.

Lackey and Masterson would join Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller in a re-fortified Cardinals rotation. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, if healthy, offer alternatives.

Once Lackey and Masterson report, the Cardinals will have 39 players on their 40-man roster. On the 25-man roster, likely a pitcher will go down to Memphis and a reserve outfielder to backfill Craig’s spot would be added.

Options on the 40-man are Shane Robinson and Randal Grichuk. Memphis’ other outfielders are Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham, each seemingly ready for an initial shot. Of course, a veteran could be added via the trade market, instead.

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