The Lackey, Craig and Kelly deal

That's Joe Kelly pranking STL rapper Nelly. Kelly and Allen Craig were locker room favorites.

That’s Joe Kelly pranking STL rapper Nelly. Kelly and Allen Craig were locker room favorites.

I hate the trade the Cardinals made acquiring John Lackey and single A pitcher Corey Littrell from the Boston Red Sox. The Redbirds gave up Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.

I have an emotional reaction to this deal, so I’ll get that out of the way first. Are we trying to get rid of all the guys from the 2011 World Series team that I love? Albert, Craig, Freese, Furcal, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, Skip Schumacker, Lance Berkman and Ryan Theriot are all gone. I know a lot of those couldn’t be helped but I thought Craig and Freese were part of the young core going forward, those were building blocks.

All that being said, I understand getting rid of Craig. Matt Adams is five years younger and having a great season at first base, hitting .315. Oscar Taveras is eight years younger and a mega prospect we have to play in right field.

And Craig has been horrible this season, hitting .237. In fairness, I think the move to right field has messed with Allen Craig. Second, you’re telling me he couldn’t be valuable as a pinch hitter in the playoffs? Third, we’re losing a veteran position player and replacing him with one of the guys famous for eating chicken and drinking beer with the Red Sox.

Yadi is coming back at some point and he’s an amazing leader. After Yadi though, you have Matt Holliday (who has never struck me as a great leader), Jhonny Peralta (ditto), Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter (neither of whom I’m sure are ready for that role) for veteran leaders. The chemistry of this team has been off this season and I don’t think this move helps.

However, the Joe Kelly decision is the real puzzler here. I’ve never liked John Lackey much but I’ll be fair. Lackey is an older version of Lance Lynn. He does not have great stuff but he is durable and consistent. He’s never had an ERA under 3.00, coming close in 2007 at 3.01, but most of the time he has an ERA around 3.50. This season his field independent pitching is better than his ERA, which is a good sign. We also get him for two years.

But he’s 35 years old; Joe Kelly is 26. Kelly is a valuable player right now, either in the rotation or in the pen. Kelly has great stuff, a fastball that moves and dirty breaking pitches. Joe Kelly’s problem is that he didn’t throw enough strikes and that’s fixable. I wasn’t ready to give up on Kelly as a starter. I would not be surprised at all if he’s like Ervin Santana: starts throwing strikes consistently and becomes a beast.

I think Kelly is going to haunt us. This trade reminds me of the Mark Mulder and Dan Haren swap. Haren was languishing in the back end of our rotation before becoming an ace in multiple stops hence.

Then again, I guess Mulder has a ring from 2006 and Haren does not.

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