The never-ending game of one-upmanship continues.
The Boston Red Sox are reportedly on the verge of inking the top pitcher on the market, John Lackey, to a five-year, $85 million contract.
Reports out of Boston claim that Lackey took a physical with the Sox on Monday, an indication that an official deal is close.
The move would serve to counter the New York Yankees' recent acquisition of All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson in a three-team blockbuster trade last week.
The Sox have money to spend after Jason Bay reportedly rejected the club’s latest contract offer. With his rejection, the club had seemingly decided to go a different route and improve the club’s pitching and defense.
Lackey, 31, would play a major part in the club’s new mission, as the Sox would boast one of the most formidable rotations in the American League.
The club has already acquired shortstop Marco Scutaro to shore up the middle infield both defensively and offensively.
Additionally, the Sox are in the process of trading veteran third baseman Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league catcher Max Ramirez.
The belief is that the club would then move to acquire free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre or attempt—once again—to trade for San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Beltre is a Gold Glove third sacker who would help solidify one of baseball’s best defensive infields. Gonzalez is one of the game's most underrated first baseman who could legitimately mash 50-plus home runs playing in a different home park.
In left field, the club appears content to let Bay get overpaid elsewhere and has shown limited interest in Matt Holliday.
Recent rumors have the club interested in free agent center fielder Mike Cameron.
Cameron is a top-flight center fielder who would allow the club to move Jacoby Ellsbury to left field, a position he is better suited to play on a full-time basis.
It was reported earlier in the offseason that Lackey was seeking a contract similar to the five-year, $82.5 million deal that the Yankees gave to right-hander A.J. Burnett last offseason, and he seems to have gotten exactly what he wanted.
Lackey entered this offseason as the top starting pitcher on the free-agent market after going 11-8 in 2009 with a 3.83 ERA in 27 starts. He helped the Angels advance to Game Six of the American League Championship Series and dominated the Red Sox in Game One of the AL Division Series, hurling 7.1 shutout innings.
Needless to say, adding a pitcher of his caliber to an already daunting front two of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester would be a major coup for the Red Sox.
Lackey has a career record of 102-71 with a 3.81 career ERA in eight seasons. In the postseason he is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA.