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St. Louis Cardinals trade draw the future closer

I wasn't sure what I thought of the St. Louis Cardinals' trade Wednesday for former Cleveland Indians hurler Justin Masterson.

But 24 hours later, general manager John Mozeliak's plans are much more clear with the acquisition of John Lackey.

The Cardinals moved away from their nucleus built of talented but largely unproven nice guys and strategically replaced them with some experienced veterans who are capable of getting nasty if they need to in meaningful games.

It hurt to give up Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. I really believe that Craig is a special hitter who's suffering through a down year. But he has too much talent not to adjust and rebuild. I also believe that Kelly is a pitcher who has just started to scratch the surface of his potential. He's got the heat -- and the smarts -- to become a consistent major league starting pitcher.

But... While they have had depth over the past two years with seven or eight guys on the roster who are capable of starting games, the obvious thing the Redbirds have lacked is a true front of the rotation starter to replace Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals tried to fill the hole with youngster Micheal Wacha. But it was an unfair position for the kid to have to match up against some of the best pitchers in the game on a regular basis while he's still trying to get comfortable in the major leagues.

It's not insignificant that Lackey was the guy who opposed Wacha in the deciding game of the 2013 World Series. The Red Sox fielded a grizzled veteran who has been on the big stage before while St. Louis was forced to ask a fresh-faced kid to do too much.

The Cardinals will play the last two months of the season with a rotation of Wainwright, Lackey, Lance Lynn, Masterson and Shelby Miller who has been dominating lately which will give them a chance to win every day -- if the offense could manage to score. Otherwise Kelly and Carlos Martinez who have likely filled two of the holes.

But what makes me really optimistic about the trades is where it puts the Cardinals in 2015.

I was concerned yesterday about dealing away first round draft pick James Ramsey for Masterson, a free agent and season's end. But Lackey is a guy who is under control next season at a ridiculously low price.

By trading Craig and his escalating salary, plus factoring in that Jaime Garcia only has one more year on his contract and the fact that Lackey is expected to be the bargain of the century, maybe the Cardinals can convince pending Tigers free agent Max Scherzer to come home to pitch in St. Louis or if Lackey can convince his best pal Jon Lester to sign with St. Louis to suddenly have a rotation to go toe to toe with the Los Angeles Dodgers starting five. 

If the Birds add to their rotation through free agency, they could potential address their offensive shortcomings with a trade including Miller, Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales. 

In short, at the trade deadline the Cardinals seem to have attempted to make the transition from being a team with a promising future to a team that has a promising present.