BOSTON — The 2012 Red Sox have been a work in progress. Much more than any recent edition of the team, the Sox have been coming together on the fly. Like any work in progress, the results have been mixed.

After Boston blew a 9-0 lead against the Yankees on April 21, Manager Bobby Valentine said the team had hit “rock bottom.”

That’s debatable. There have been other low points, like a 17-inning defeat where an outfielder took the loss, or the pitiful start by Josh Beckett that saw him leave in the third inning to a deafening chorus of boos.

Yet, since that loss to the Yankees, many elements of the team have started to fall into place. The offense has been fine. The Sox have scored the second-most runs in the American League and have the third-best OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage.)

Unexpectedly, the bullpen has started to come together. Red Sox relievers have given up just 10 earned runs in the month of May.

If you remove outfielder Darnell McDonald’s three runs in the 17th inning against Baltimore, the bullpen has an impressive ERA of 1.12 for the month.

The problem is that the bullpen had thrown 571/3 innings in that 12-game stretch. That’s nearly five innings a game. No bullpen is built to succeed with that kind of workload.

The bullpen has been taxed because the starting pitching has been brutal for much of the season. The rotation entered the week with a 5.67 ERA, the second-worst in the majors. Yet there have been signs that the starting pitching is also starting to come together.

Major League Baseball defines a “quality start” as six or more innings giving up three or fewer runs. It’s hardly the standard of excellence — if a starter gave up three runs in six innings every game, he’d have an ERA of 4.50.

It’s more of a base line, a minimum level of success. Keep an opponent to three runs heading into the seventh, and you’ve given your own team a chance to win most nights.

Over the weekend and into Monday, Red Sox starters finally did that for four straight games.

On Friday night, Clay Buchholz turned in his best outing of the season. He gave up three earned runs in 61/3 innings, two of them scoring after he left the game.

A night later, Felix Doubront gave up one run in six innings, numbers matched by Daniel Bard on Sunday.

Jon Lester matched the team’s longest streak of quality starts this season by allowing one run in a complete game against Seattle on Monday.

Four quality starts. Four wins. No coincidence.

In fact, since that “rock bottom” Saturday afternoon at Fenway, the Red Sox are 9-2 in games where the starting pitcher registers a quality start.

Lester is the No. 1 pitcher on this staff, and is trying to show the world he is an ace. Before winning Monday, he had just one win in his last 11 starts going back to early September of last season. He has the lowest ERA of anyone in the starting rotation, but an ace needs to do more than that. He needs to dominate.

The Red Sox have had very few dominating starts this season. But in a year that has moved along in fits and spurts, domination isn’t necessary.

Right now, all the Sox want is quality. If they get a little more of it from their starters, they might just salvage this season after all.

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.