NEW YORK -- General manager Ben Cherington's ideal swap won't be for a rental.
"I guess we have to be prudent, factor in where we are, factor that in the risk-reward of any deal," Cherington said Friday, four days before the Trade Deadline. "But if there's a way to improve the team this year potentially and beyond, then those are deals we want to pursue. We'll see what happens. We'll work as hard as we can."
That doesn't mean Cherington, whose last-place Red Sox started what should be a telling three-game series with the first-place Yankees on Friday, thinks Boston is out of playoff contention this year.
The Red Sox started Friday 10 1/2 games back of the Yankees in the American League East. Their expected win-loss record, calculated using the number of runs they've scored and allowed, has them a better team than that -- as the second-best team in the AL East, in fact. The Orioles (52-47), in second place, entered Friday with 53 more runs allowed than scored.
But theoretical standings don't help much as Cherington decides whether to buy or sell. He's talking to teams daily, about "small stuff, bigger stuff."
"To be honest, this is an unfamiliar position," Cherington said. "We haven't been in a position where it's sort of unclear. This year it's been unclear what we're doing, [with] previous years more clearly defined. The way we see it is there's a lot invested in this team. We don't believe the cluster of teams above us is any better than we are. We have as good a chance to run off a winning streak as any of those teams. There's some teams that got maybe a little bit of luck -- whatever, it is what it is. We're a game under .500, it is what it is."
Cherington acknowledged that starting pitching is an area of need for the Sox, but he also said that if the pitchers he currently has can find themselves -- namely Jon Lester, who starts Saturday -- they'll be better off than any trade they can make this season. -- i'm not sure what he wrote that, i think that's what he was trying to say
Josh Beckett won't be going anywhere, Cherington said.
"We're not talking to teams about Josh," said the first-year GM.
"We're focused on opportunities more than anything, trying to find value," Cherington said. "It's no secret we're trying to improve our starting pitching, and we're going to do that more by our own guys pitching to form. That's going to make a bigger impact than any starting pitcher we can acquire, but we're not doing our jobs if we're not trying to improve everything."
Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA), the team's Opening Day starter, is 0-3 with a 10.42 ERA in four July starts.
Cherington pointed out that if the Red Sox were winning, Lester's struggles wouldn't be drawing overt attention. Regardless, Lester needs to get straightened out.
"That's more important any trade we can make," Cherington said. "We need to help him. He's gone through a rough patch and we've ... had core players go through rough patches in the past. We're at our best when we circle around those guys, helping them get through their rough patch. That's what we got to do now. We know how good he is, and he's feeling good about how important he is to the team.
"I think the timing of this one, because the team hasn't been playing the way we want, his struggles came at the same time. So there's been on a lot of focus on it, where in other years we've had a guy struggle, a really good player struggle, it gets glossed over a little bit when other guys are doing well."