There’s a week remaining in July. NFL training camps are opening and back-to-school ads are beginning to dominate television. Each day features just a little less sunlight than the one before.

While those are signs that summer is flying by, they are also reminders that baseball’s stretch run isn’t that far away. The nonwaiver trade deadline is July 31 and the dog days of August are right around the corner.

It’s only fitting that the Boston Red Sox are spending the start of the week playing the dogs of the American League. The Baltimore Orioles are a truly bad team, entering this series 411/2 games behind Boston in the AL East. They have a major-league leading 72 losses and have been waving the white flag on the season since May.

They’ve already traded their prize possession – Manny Machado – and undoubtedly are willing to move anyone that could help them restock the farm system and move them along the long path of rebuilding.

Reliever Zach Britton will be one of those players moved. And the Red Sox should be doing everything they can to get him.

Britton would fill a couple of needs for the Red Sox. He’s a proven late-inning reliever with 139 career saves. He’s also left-handed and would help alleviate the lack of lefty relief help in the bullpen, or the system.

The Orioles’ closer will be a free agent at the end of the season. Baltimore cannot afford to lose him without flipping him for talent.

General Manager Dan Duquette will need to get something back for him by next Tuesday.

And he will.

The Sox are one of the six or more teams reportedly in the hunt for Britton. He’s owed $4 to $5 million for the rest of the season.

Last year the Astros reportedly came close to landing him. They are again in desperate need for a closer and are back in the hunt.

Houston’s interest should only add to the sense of urgency felt by Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations, this week in Baltimore. He’ll be able to hold face-to-face discussions with Duquette, and should be doing everything within reason to land Britton.

Britton has missed much of the season after his ruptured Achilles tendon was surgically repaired just before Christmas. He struggled in the early days of his return, giving up six runs on eight hits in 82/3 innings in June. His command has been off and he’s walked 10 batters in just 152/3 innings.

That’s not like Britton, who averaged 16 walks per season in his All-Star years of 2015 and 2016.

But he’s been better of late. In July he’s made seven scoreless appearances, and picked up a save and a win when the Orioles shocked the Yankees and split a four-game series. A left-hander who can get New York hitters out would work pretty well in Boston.

Meantime the Sox bullpen continues to be inconsistent. Joe Kelly walked two more batters Sunday, pitching a low-leverage inning of a 9-1 game. It was noteworthy that Matt Barnes, not Kelly, was called upon in the eighth to protect a 1-0 lead Friday night.

Tyler Thornburg, inconsistent in his minor league rehab work this season, gave up three runs in one inning Saturday night.

Playoff contenders can always use bullpen help. This year that need is glaring for the Red Sox. They own the best record in baseball, and believe they can win it all this fall. One more arm might go a long way toward helping them do it.

The Sox are spending three days in Baltimore before coming home. Winning games against the Orioles is expected. The real challenge will be winning the battle for Britton before next Tuesday.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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