Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester must start 30 games apiece for Boston to have a shot at winning the World Series. Each starter gives the team a proven commodity when healthy, and the Sox will have a chance to win in every start if the three J's pitch to their potential.
Josh Beckett will get the Opening Day start against the Yankees at Fenway Park on Sunday, and the fireballer enters the last year of a three-year, $30 million contract extension. He will earn even more money with his next contract, in Boston or elsewhere.
According to Sports Illustrated, the Sox and Beckett are on the verge of a four-year, $70 million extension that could be announced after the start of the season.
If Beckett signs an extension, he can use 2010 to solidify his spot at the top of the Red Sox rotation. Boston has several aces, but Beckett can prove he's Boston's No. 1 starter by making at least 30 quality starts.
Lackey understands Beckett's contract situation well. The 6-foot-6 right-hander received a five-year, $82.5 million deal in the offseason, the longest contract the Red Sox have ever given to a pitcher.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Lackey's first start on April 7 against the Yankees at Fenway could predict whether or not he was worth the investment.
The veteran right-hander has struggled in his career at Fenway Park, posting a 5.75 ERA in nine career starts in Boston. Lackey's numbers against New York aren't much better, as the righty has a 4.66 ERA in 16 major league starts against the Bronx Bombers.
With a strong performance in his season debut, Lackey can start his Red Sox career on a good note and silence his critics. If Lackey performs well against New York, he'll earn the respect of Red Sox fans and put to rest concerns about his ability to pitch in Fenway Park and against the Yankees.
Lester has already made a good impression in Boston, but the former second-round draft pick can use this season to prove he's the best left-handed pitcher in the major leagues. The lefty possesses the potential to not only win 20 games, but also capture the American League Cy Young if he starts at least 30 games.
Lester's ERA, WHIP and strikeout numbers have improved in each of the last three seasons, and at age 25, he’s just entering the prime of his career. With the additions of Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro to help the team's defense, Lester's ERA could improve substantially.
In addition, the Red Sox' offense should help Lester reach his goals. Royals pitcher Zack Greinke won last year's AL Cy Young with a 16-8 record without much offensive support. Kansas City's offense averaged 3.7 runs per game in Greinke's starts last year, yet the right-hander's pitching dominance earned him the Cy Young.
Boston's offense should post solid offensive numbers this season, and if Lester makes at least 30 starts, he has an excellent chance to win 20 games and capture the Cy Young award.
If Beckett, Lackey and Lester make 30 starts apiece, the Red Sox should be primed to make a run in October — not only because each ace gives the Sox a great chance to win, but because three healthy aces eliminates the possibility that Red Sox fans will ever see John Burkett, Jason Johnson and John Wasdin in a Boston uniform.
From now until Opening Day, NESN.com will run down 25 things that need to happen for the Red Sox to win the World Series.
April 2: Get a boost from an unexpected place in October.