The 2012 MLB trading deadline has come and gone, with far fewer large trades than in years past, but a flurry of smaller trades coming in the closing hours. The Red Sox were connected with just about every available starting pitcher. But in the end, they made only two minor moves, neither immediately addressing their starter concerns.

To be honest, it’s a little difficult to blame them for not being able to swing a deal for a top-end starting pitcher; they merely don’t have the means to give up for a guy like Zack Greinke, compared to the prospect package the Angels gave up for him. However, this hardly absolves the front office from blame – most any available starter would have been an improvement over the trainwreck that has been the Boston rotation this year. It’s hard to imagine that there was no one available for cheap that isn’t better than, say, Aaron Cook, who’s struck out only four batters in 40 innings, for an astounding 2.4% strikeout rate, by far the worst among pitchers with 20 or more innings pitched (he’s allowed more home runs than he’s gotten strikeouts, even). Their biggest position of strength to deal from was their outfield – indeed, the Red Sox have more outfielders than they even know what to do with – but ultimately, the only one traded was Scott Podsednik, who was part of a trade, along with Matt Albers, for lefty reliever Craig Breslow. Breslow’s a good reliever, no doubt, but a acquiring a left-handed reliever specifically is a luxury that teams get when they don’t necessarily have a tremendous gaping hole to fill.

Not being able to go ahead and get a starter – pretty much any starter, as stated previously – casts an ominous shadow over the rest of the Red Sox’ season. This is a team that still firmly believes that they are capable of contending, and it’s possible, but with a rotation lacking any firmly above-average starters, it’s VERY unlikely. An honest shot at contention would require at least that Josh Beckett and Jon Lester pitch unlike they have all year and return to their pre-2012 career form which is, again, possible, but seems unlikely.

Even in the case that Lester and Beckett both start pitching like the front-end starters they are, their rotation is still their weakest spot – Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz aren’t much more than back-end starters and Aaron Cook shouldn’t be getting major league innings anywhere anymore, so it appears that the Red Sox’ silence at the trading deadline is actively hampering their ability to compete this year. There’s always the possibility that they acquire a starter through the waiver wire, but I’m not certain that they intend to go that way given that they were not in too deep with any starter during the non-waiver trade period. Plus, it’s significantly harder to pull off a successful waiver trade unless they’re willing to send any interesting pieces as players to be named later.

The Red Sox are a team in flux. Their payroll is high enough that they should be constant contenders, but they’ve underperformed thus far this year and haven’t made any attempts to make improvements on the areas that have faltered. It was completely obvious that they weren’t going to blow up the team and try to start from scratch, but that would’ve been preferable to a mostly silent deadline where they stay expensive but without any meaningful talent added.