Clay Buchholz Trade A Necessary Move For Red Sox, But Rotation Questions Linger

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The Boston Red Sox have traded Clay Buchholz.

For some Red Sox fans, those eight words are cause for celebration. Despite his occasional brilliance, Buchholz long had been a source of frustration in Boston. After a scintillating start to the 2013 season — 7-2 record, 1.71 ERA in 12 starts — the right-hander missed three months with a neck strain, then saw his performance dip over a three-year stretch marred by injuries and inconsistency that saw him fall out of the rotation in 2016.

That leads us to Tuesday, when the Red Sox traded their second longest-tenured player to the Philadelphia Phillies in return for a minor league second baseman.

The move essentially was a salary dump, and one that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needed to make: Landing left-handed ace Chris Sale on Dec. 6 gave Boston seven starters vying for five rotation spots. Buchholz, despite two All-Star appearances, a World Series ring and a full decade of service, was one of the odd men out.

Yet unloading Buchholz doesn’t solve the Red Sox’s rotation puzzle. In fact, it adds an even greater question mark. Of Boston’s six remaining starters — Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright — four are left-handed, with Porcello and Wright as the only righties.

The 23-year-old Rodriguez showed enough last season to earn a starting job, and Dombrowski has hinted he wants to keep Pomeranz as a starter. But if Wright doesn’t make the cut, that leaves the Red Sox with a five-man rotation featuring four left-handers. That’s not ideal, considering hitters often thrive off left-handed pitching at Fenway Park — especially righty batters, who can use the looming Green Monster to their advantage.

Of course, this all assumes Dombrowski is done dealing. He very well could continue his active offseason by dealing another starter or picking up a right-hander to balance out Boston’s rotation. Or maybe manager John Farrell is OK with stacking up left-handers at Fenway: After all, the other four American League East teams all hit .254 or worse against left-handed pitching in 2016.

Statistics aside, though, the Buchholz trade represents a “changing of the guard” in what has been an offseason of major transition in Boston. The Red Sox already have lost three of their four longest-tenured players in Buchholz, David Ortiz and Koji Uehara. That leaves Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr. (!!!) as the two players who have been in Boston the longest.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the Red Sox have an infusion of exciting young talent. But as much as some fans may rejoice at Buchholz’s departure, there still are questions to be answered.

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Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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