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Ben Cherington: Sox trade moves focused on ‘building as quickly as possible for April of 2015′

07.26.14 at 6:18 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s been a tough time for a Red Sox team and front office that had bold visions of defending their 2013 championship. Just over 100 games into the 2014 season, all parties around the team have been forced to recalibrate their view of the world, to wonder what’s been missing en route to a season-long stumble that has the club nine games under .500 with just five games remaining before Thursday’s traded deadline, in a position where the team must contemplate selling off pieces of the club in hopes of putting itself in a better position for next year.

“It’s not the most fun,” GM Ben Cherington said in a conference call. “I much prefer the alternative.”

Yet the alternative no longer appears a choice. The team dealt right-hander Jake Peavy on Saturday to the Giants in exchange for two prospects. That deal wasn’t necessarily a reflection of a seller’s mentality, as the Sox have thought for weeks that parting with Peavy and turning his rotation spot to the team’s young starters did not necessarily represent a step back in 2014.

“He was a guy we were willing to listen on simply because as we looked at the team, we felt like there was some opportunity and value in giving some innings to one of the younger starters, and we thought that we could be just as competitive as a team in doing that,” said Cherington — who noted that the move to acquire Peavy at last year’s trade deadline was one he would make again without hesitation given the protection he offered to the rotation at a time when Clay Buchholz‘s outlook was uncertain. “And we knew that there would be enough interest in Jake to possibly get something back that we like and would help us down the road. He was one player on the team that we were willing to talk about earlier and it just so happened that it came together this week.”

So, the Peavy deal — in which the veteran went to the Giants for left-hander Edwin Escobar and right-hander Heath Hembree — was a straightforward one that didn’t reflect the team’s competitive circumstance. But there are other deals that the team soon will have to contemplate with more ominous implications for the duration of 2014.

And Cherington didn’t hide from the fact that his mission is now to build the best possible team he can for 2015. That doesn’t set a clear template for what the team will do between now and Thursday, but it’s a different beacon than the one the team had envisioned chasing at this stage of the season.

The Sox GM did not specifically address whether he would listen to proposals by teams considering the acquisition of Jon Lester. But he painted a broad picture in which the team will at least listen to proposals on any of its players — even as it maintains a desire to bring back Lester.

“I’m not going to comment on any particular player. We have to talk to teams. We have to listen to what teams are looking to do and figure out from those conversations what opportunities are out there,” said Cherington. “Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible for April of 2015. And so that might mean doing very little, it might mean doing a bunch of stuff. It might be between that. I don’t know yet. But you guys know how we feel about Jon. We’re certainly happy that statement reflects how he feels about the relationship. We feel good about our relationship with him. Our position hasn’t changed: We’d certainly love for Jon to be here in 2015.

“What we’re doing is, we’re listening,” Cherington said of the calls the team is taking on all of its players. “We’re gathering information as we have been over really the last month or so, and as we get closer to the deadline, it starts to become more clear as to what teams are the most motivated to add in different areas, whether it’s starting pitching or bullpen or position players or whatever. And so we’ll start to get more clarity on exactly what opportunities might be out there for us.

“But we’re not there yet. We’re not closing in on anything yet, but we’re listening and we’ll just see how the rest of the week goes. We are in a unique position, I know I’ve said this before, in that the performance of the team has put us in a position where we have to at least listen. And yet we have guys, particularly on the pitching side of things, who are elite performers, who are not only elite performers but who have been a big part of winning a World Series very recently. It’s a unique combination of guys and there’s a lot of teams that are interested in those guys.”

 

The changed outlook on this year arrived as recently as the current roadtrip. The Sox had started to view the world through an optimistic prism after reeling off eight wins in nine games. But a four-game losing streak — three losses in Toronto, one in Tampa Bay — has forced the team to take stock of its plight.

“I have to say it’€™s been a disappointing week — and a little surprising, even. We ran off a bunch of wins and had a big win Monday night up in Toronto. We kept thinking even as of Tuesday that we were looking toward continuing that run and adding wins, and I really thought we would. It hasn’€™t happened,” said Cherington. “As you start marking down the days before Thursday — and Thursday does mean something; there’€™s a reason why they call it a deadline — we have to be mindful of what that means with where we are, what the math says about our chances, and we have to act accordingly. Whatever we do between now and then will be geared toward putting ourselves in the best possible position as quickly as possible.”

Read More: ben cherington, jake peavy, Jon Lester,
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