As the final two months of the season wind down, the Boston Red Sox will be faced with a couple of very interesting decisions when it comes to Jon Lester as they continue their push for the playoffs.

First, if the Red Sox make the playoffs, should Lester get a start? Secondly, will the Red Sox pick up Lester’s $13 million option for the 2014-15 season?

Dealing with the first question, Lester’s odd season for the Red Sox continued after being the losing pitcher Thursday night with another shaky performance in a 5-1 loss (ESPN game recap). It has been that type of season for Lester, his first season under new manager John Farrell.

Right now, Lester is the No. 4 starter on this pitching staff behind Jake Peavy, John Lackey and Felix Doubront. If Clay Buchholz returns to the rotation, then Lester should be bumped from the rotation come playoff time. The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham has news of Buchholz making progress in rehabbing his right shoulder.

Going back to the start of this season, it looked like Farrell and new pitching coach Juan Nieves had been able to get Lester back in his groove, with the lefty off to a 6-0 start this season. It was the type of performance that made me think that the Red Sox might look at extending Lester at the All Star break.

Since that 6-0 start, Lester has been a decidedly mediocre 4-7. At a time when the Red Sox needed him to be the staff ace, he has been just another guy. With the injuries to Buchholz, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, Boston really needed Lester to become the ace of the staff again.

Instead, Lester has settled back into being an inconsistent No. 3 starter, not at all what the Red Sox need right now. The scary part about Lester’s 2013 numbers is that they are very similar to his numbers from 2012, the worst season of Lester’s career.

For a pitcher with a 95-55 career record, it is hard to look at him anymore as a potential ace of a pitching staff when he has only been 19-21 the past two seasons. The ace label seems to sit with Buchholz when he is healthy enough to pitch. It is also easy to understand that the Red Sox may have had some of the same concerns this offseason when Lester’s name was first mentioned in trade rumors.

For whatever reason, Lester hasn’t been the same pitcher he was through the 2011-12 season and he may never be that pitcher again. It begs the question: will the Red Sox seriously consider declining Lester’s 2014 contract option for $13 million?

It sounds silly on the surface, but the Red Sox might decide having Lester making $13 million as a No. 4 starter isn’t the best investment moving forward, especially with all of the young starting pitching coming through the system.

The 29-year-old Lester should be in the prime of his career right now, yet he looks like he might be showing signs of serious decline. For a supposed ace pitcher, Lester has given the Red Sox only 11 quality starts out of his 24 outings.

It is simply not good enough. The Red Sox will be in a dogfight in the American League East for the remainder of the season. For the Red Sox to make the playoffs, Lester will need to improve his overall performance.

Lester used to be the considered the ace of the staff, now the question is simply whether Lester can ever resemble that pitcher again for Boston.


Information used from Baseball Reference, ESPN, Peter Abraham/Boston Globe

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