How Red Sox can maintain success

Will Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington make a trade or promote from within? Jim Rogash/Getty Images

BOSTON -- The cracks are there in the Red Sox, as with all teams, and Boston's front office is faced with the question of whether the fix is just a matter of slapping on some Spackle and paint, or if there is a need for something more substantive.

Boston is in an enviable position, holding the best record in the American League (59-40). But those two figures in the rearview mirror, the on-rushing Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, appear larger by the day, and the cold reality is that the Red Sox have absolutely no idea what they're going to get out of the two starting pitchers that began the season as their No. 1 and No. 2 guys.

Clay Buchholz's return from some sort of shoulder/neck issue has been delayed repeatedly. Maybe he'll come back in the next few weeks and be as good as he was in the first two months -- or maybe he'll be something much less than that. Rob Bradford writes that he's going to see Dr. James Andrews.

Jon Lester had a 7.62 ERA in June and ranged from good to much worse in his first three outings of July, and then was scratched from his start Sunday night. The Red Sox say they're looking to get him some extra rest, but as Lester played catch Saturday, he was accompanied by an athletic trainer, which suggests that perhaps there's more to his situation than simple first-half weariness.