The Boston Red Sox might not want to trade John Lackey, given his strong 2013 season and his extremely team-friendly $500,000 club option for 2015. But, in all likelihood, they’ll want to clear up a crowded rotation situation before the start of the season, and there may not be a better time to trade the veteran right-hander. 

At two years and $15.75 million for the next two seasons—he’ll make $15.25 million in 2014; his $500,000 club option for 2015 took effect when he missed significant time due to elbow surgery between 2010-2014, according to Baseball Prospectus—Lackey is a great value for any team. That includes the Red Sox, who, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe pointed out in his weekend column, aren’t particularly motivated to deal him right now. 

That could change, though.

Freeing up $15.25 million of salary from the 2014 payroll while getting something of value in return for the 35-year-old, who posted a 3.52 ERA with a 1.9 BB/9 and 7.7 K/9 in 189.1 regular-season innings last season, is enough of a reason to at least listen on offers. 

Gordon Edes of reported during last month’s winter meetings that the Sox were gauging interest in their veteran starting pitchers. 

Here’s why Lackey might be the one to be traded. 

Jon Lester proved during last year’s playoffs that he was the staff ace and one of the more valuable players for the World Series champs. At $13 million, he’s a bargain for 2014, the last year of his current deal. The soon-to-be 30-year-old would likely net the Sox their biggest return in a trade, but they’re more likely to try and sign him to a contract extension. 

Jake Peavy, who is due $14.5 million in 2014 before becoming a free agent, is coming off of a solid season split between the Red Sox and White Sox. He’d certainly draw interest on the trade market. But at that salary and considering he’s only been able to make more than 27 starts in one season (2012) since 2007 due to a long list of injuries, teams aren’t likely to offer enough in return.

If the Sox were ever going to trade Clay Buchholz, it wouldn’t be after a season in which he only made 16 starts due to injury. While he did go 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA and an impressive 6.2 H/9, teams aren’t going to offer the package of players they would had he been healthy the entire season. You don’t trade a potential staff ace when his value isn’t at its peak.

Ryan Dempster will be 37 in May, is due to make $13.25 million in 2014 and had a 4.57 ERA last season. That’s not a good combination for teams looking to add starting pitching on the trade market. The Sox would have to take on some of his remaining salary, and the return wouldn’t be great, anyways. 

Felix Doubront is a 26-year-old with four years of club control and a 4.36 ERA in 59 career starts. Moving him now isn’t a bad idea, although it’s likely that the Sox would rather trade Lackey over a young lefty who could potentially move to the bullpen if they needed to clear a spot for one of their top young prospects or even Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, whom Cafardo thinks the Red Sox could make a run at.

Trading Lackey could make that a more likely scenario. Here’s a look at some potential suitors that can offer the best potential trade packages. 

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