Kelly would have been under team control through the 2018 season and Craig was signed to a reasonable contract through the 2017 season, with a $13 million option for 2018.
In exchange, the Cardinals got Masterson, who is a free agent after this season, and Lackey, who has an incredibly low $500K option for 2015.
The move also cleared room for top prospect Oscar Taveras to play everyday as the starting right fielder.
Does it make the team better in the long run? That's hard to say, but at least one writer, Bob Nightengale thinks that the Cardinals will regret the Lackey trade.
However, it does change the Cardinals projected lineup and starting pitching for 2015 and beyond, here's a quick look at both:
With Taveras replacing Craig, the lineup should be pretty much set through the 2016 season, after which, both Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos are set to become free agents.
Back in December, I predicted that James Ramsey was the heir apparent to the center field job, eventually replacing Bourjos after the 2016 season (I predicted Jay would be traded this year).
The Cards other top outfield prospects, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are both projected as corner outfielders, leaving the team without an obvious center fielder of the future.
Tommy Pham is probably the Cardinals best defensive center field prospect, but has a career .253 average in the minors. He has hit well this year, with a .332 average, albeit in the hitter-friendly PCL.
In any case, the Cards could always extend the contracts of Jay or Bourjos, if needed.
Here's where things get a little more interesting. The Cardinals obviously needed starting pitching this year to make up for the losses of Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha. Its unlikely that Garcia will pitch for the Cards again, while Wacha hopes to return sometime in September and should be healthy going forward.
With Lacky signed through 2015 and Masterson a free agent after the season, here's what the 2015 rotation should look like:
- Adam Wainwright
- Michael Wacha
- John Lackey
- Lance Lynn
- Shelby Miller
For 2016, Lackey will roll off the books, with Martinez and Gonzales battling for the 5th spot. Giving us the following rotation:
Overall, I think the Ramsey loss could create a hole in center in the future, while the Cardinals overall pitching depth doesn't seem as strong as the past few years. But, if the team can keep drafting and developing players like they have in the past, these issues will resolve themselves.