Red Sox History: The Cardinals-Allen Craig trade and what could have been

Even though the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals play in different leagues, they have had plenty of memories. For Red Sox fans, one memory sticks out: the Allen Craig trade.
Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

As the Boston Red Sox face off with the St. Louis Cardinals May 15-17, thoughts turn back to some of the history between the two teams.

From the 1967 World Series defeat to the 2013 World Series when the Sox avenged their previous loss with the help of an amazing series from David Ortiz, who batted a blistering .688 on route to a World Series MVP, Boston and St. Louis have a contentious history.

Before the start of the 2014 season, the Sox had quality pitching — a lot of it. But they suffered from a lack of hitting. Will Middlebrooks was showing signs of a complete bust. Jonny Gomes was not the answer in left and Daniel Nava was a nice fourth outfielder, just not the power-hitting corner player they needed.

When Boston determined it would not contend in 2014, it gave up its two best starters. John Lester was traded to the Athletics and the Sox made an exchange with St Louis that turned into a nightmare; the Allen Craig deal.

Craig was dubbed "The Clutchmaster," "The RBI Machine" and "an RBI Monster" by St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz. From 2011-2013 he batted over .300 each year and had 97 RBI in 2013 before he turned his ankle in a game against Cincinnati late that year.

Remembering the Allen Craig deal between the Red Sox and Cardinals

Craig was healthy when the World Series rolled around, though, and he faced off against the Sox in the last dance. His role was reduced, however, and he was relegated to designated hitter or pinch hitter slots. In 2014, Craig's average dipped to .237 when the Sox pulled the trigger sending John Lackey and a minor leaguer to St. Louis in exchange for Craig and starter (at the time) Joe Kelly.

At first, the deal seemed like a steal and a half. Craig could play either left or right field, and his swing would amount to plenty of doubles to right and some good, cheap doubles and home runs over the Monster. Kelly was an up-and-coming pitcher who had the potential to be nearly as good as the departed Lackey. It was a great trade on the surface.

But Craig's ankle injury affected his swing, and his 2014 slump continued into his tenure with the Red Sox. His 29 games with the Sox at the end of the year were disastrous. A .128 batting average with only one home run and two RBI.

His 2015 campaign was more of the same: Craig batted .152 with one home run and three RBI. His poor production earned him a first-class ticket to Triple-A. He hit .274 in Pawtucket, but his power was gone — he collected four home runs in 343 at bats compared to 22 home runs in 2012 in St. Louis. He missed more time with injuries the next two years and management decided they had seen enough.

In the end, the Sox dished out over 28 million to a minor leaguer, which was a tough pill to swallow for fans who thought they walked away from the trade with a steal. Rusney Castillo followed a similar path, and Boston had two players in the minors making over $11 million. Talk about highway robbery!

On the bright side, Kelly became a solid relief pitcher and helped them in the 2018 World Series. He also brought some good entertainment and a decent right hook to the club.

So, as the Red Sox duke it out with the Cardinals this weekend, fans can think about Gibson in ’67, or Ortiz in 2013. Some of us will remember what could've been in the Craig deal. If it panned out the way many hoped, Boston could've secured several titles and plenty of production from Craig.

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