For weeks now, the Red Sox have been in a sort of baseball limbo. Wednesday afternoon, they wrap up a 10-game West Coast trip in Anaheim trying to stay afloat in the AL East as we approach Saturday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

In each of the last three seasons, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein has arguably made the biggest deal in Major League Baseball on July 31.

Last season, he acquired Victor Martinez and the Sox went on to have the most home runs of any team over the last two months of the season.

In 2008, it was the mega-deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. Jason Bay came to town in that deal, and went on to hit 45 homers over the next 11/2 seasons.

In 2007, it was Eric Gagne. Yes, the acquisition didn’t work out — Gagne failed miserably with the Sox — but it was undoubtedly the biggest deal that day.

In fact, we spent much of the afternoon on NESN praising the deal and saying how crucial it was to keep Gagne out of New York.

The question right now is, What to do with this team?

Do you try to land a big-time bat to bolster a lineup that hit just .233 against last-place Seattle over the weekend?

It isn’t unthinkable that Epstein will pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal this week, but it seems unlikely.

The Red Sox should have a strong enough lineup when healthy.

The bullpen, however, needs help.

The four games in Seattle reminded us of that. Middle relievers coughed up a four-run, ninth-inning lead in Thursday’s extra-innings win, and cost the Sox the game in the eighth inning on Sunday.

Even when healthy, this team’s bullpen is not good enough.

So look for Epstein to do his best to land an arm to join Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard in late-inning situations.

Lefty Scott Downs of Toronto would be a good fit.

Trouble is he’d be a good fit on about a dozen contenders that are looking for bullpen help. That means anyone looking to land a reliever will have to overpay.

The Sox are a team that has been badly injured but is poised to get healthy again.

While teams are scurrying to find midseason additions, the Sox are preparing to get back a group of impact players in the days ahead.

When those players return, the lineup should look something like this:


1. Ellsbury, CF

2. Pedroia 2B

3. Martinez, C

4. Youkilis, 1B

5. Ortiz, DH

6. Beltre, 3B

7. Drew, RF

8. Cameron LF

9. Scutaro, SS


Not bad. It’s a lineup that we’ve seen only eight times this season.

You can always improve a lineup — and, with Cameron’s ongoing abdominal issue, additional outfield help could always come in handy.

Yet this lineup is strong enough to compete for a playoff spot.

The bullpen is not. Remember Hideki Okajima’s eighth-inning implosion Sunday when you ponder Epstein’s next move.


Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.