A mystery American League team has claimed Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon off waivers, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Given Papelbon’s success in Boston and the lack of leverage in a waiver-claim trade, the Red Sox will most likely pull Papelbon back off waivers.

While it might seem absurd to many that the Red Sox would consider trading their All-Star closer, Boston’s ever dwindling playoff hopes make it more conceivable every day. That said, the asking price would be astronomical, and it’s unlikely the claiming team would be willing to pay it.

The Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago White Sox all seem like plausible candidates to have made the claim, but the team’s identity remains unknown a full day after the claim was exercised.

Although Papelbon has collected 176 saves in just five seasons as the Red Sox’ closer, his walk, strikeout, and homerun percentages are all heading in the wrong directions while his salaries continue only to increase.

Papelbon is earning a still-affordable $9.35 million this season, but that number will surely climb into eight-figure territory in 2011, Papelbon’s last season before hitting free agency.

With Daniel Bard waiting in the wings, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the Red Sox would part with Papelbon, again for the right price.

To put Papelbon’s salary in sabermetric context, Boston’s closer has never exceeded $13.5 million in value since he took over that role in 2006. Mariano Rivera has never been worth more than $14.2 million.

While it’s difficult to put a price tag on winning, Papelbon is on the verge of costing more than he’s worth. Certainly in free agency or a contract extension, Papelbon will command more money than he’s worth, and it would seem uncharacteristic of the Red Sox to keep him around at an unreasonable price.

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