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No Question: The Yankees Will Acquire Cliff Lee ... Or Maybe The Red Sox Could

Cliff Lee hasn't been traded yet, but when he is, he will be traded to the Yankees.

Cliff Lee hasn't become a free agent yet, but when he does, he will be signed by the Yankees.

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal is sure of it. As sure as the sky is blue, the grass is green and Dustin Pedroia will break Joe DiMaggio's hit streak.

But hasn't he forgot about the Boston Red Sox?

Lee will be wearing pinstripes in August or December. Either or, says Rosenthal:

The Yankees are going to end up with Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee. The only question is whether they land him in a trade this summer or as a free agent this winter — and a trade might not be as far-fetched as it appears.

True, the Yankees currently boast five healthy and effective starters. True, they simply could wait for Lee to become a free agent and sign him in the offseason without losing any young talent. But one rival executive says the Yankees will be undeterred in their pursuit of Lee on the trade market.

His reasoning is simple.

“Top of the rotation starter,” the exec says.

Rosenthal comes to this conclusion because a) Lee is really good and b) the Yankees sign/trade for/persuade with a tasty carrot on the end of the stick any really good player anywhere in the world. It just seems like a match made in heaven.

But the Red Sox cannot be counted out of the equation.

The Mariners are led by a smart general manager in Jack Zduriencik. Jack Z. isn't going to let Lee go without getting some kind of fantastic bounty in return. With the Mariners sliding out of the AL West race day by day (Seattle is currently eight games back of the first place Rangers), Lee will most likely be traded before July 31, baseball's non-waiver trading deadline. This is when the M's can make out like bandits.

And make out like bandits they will. Lee will be, without a doubt, the best available starting pitcher at the trade deadline. The Mariners will want prospects in return and close to a handful of them. While the Yankees have a few prospects they could offer to entice Seattle, the Red Sox have even more gems that could be traded.

Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish, Felix Doubront. Three prospects who will be ready or close-to-ready for the big leagues by the time July 31 rolls around. Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes, Anthony Rizzo. Three prospects that need a little seasoning, but will be there in a year or so.

If the Sox wanted to package any of these guys, they could probably acquire Lee. But "want" is the key word to all of this. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is frugal when it comes to trading prospects, especially for a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. The second part of the equation is this: does Lee have a spot in the rotation?

With Josh Beckett and John Lackey locked up through 2014, and Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to be locked up for a long time, too, there isn't much room for Lee. Unless the Red Sox plan on cutting Daisuke Matsuzaka (yeah, right) or ditching Tim Wakefield (no way), Lee doesn't have a spot in the Boston rotation this season.

But it is nice to dream, isn't it? Especially when it means stickin' it to the Yankees and making Rosenthal think a little bit longer before he writes another article.

You know what another nice dream would be? Lee not being traded to the Yankees and playing in the AL East. That would be a nice reoccurring dream every week or so until August 1.