When the Red Sox signed John Lackey earlier this offseason, many wondered if Josh Beckett's time in Boston was coming to an end. Beckett's $12.1MM option for 2010 vested in early September, though with Lackey joining incumbents Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, and Tim Wakefield, the Sox could probably afford to let Beckett walk after the season instead of giving him a huge payday.
Beckett will turn 30 in May, and during his four years in Boston he's posted a 4.05 ERA in 122 starts, twice appearing in an All Star Game and once winning the World Series. His 4.38 K/BB ratio over the last three seasons trails only Mariano Rivera, Kevin Slowey, Dan Haren, and Roy Halladay, while his 3.28 xFIP lags behind only Tim Lincecum among starters in that time. The performance is not an issue, but as WEEI.com's Rob Bradford writes, the health of Beckett's shoulder might be.
We've already heard that Boston would probably use Halladay's three-year, $60MM deal (minus $6-8MM) as a guideline for a Beckett extension instead of Lackey's five-year, $82.5MM deal. However if he has a strong 2010 season, it shouldn't be too hard for Beckett to find more than that on the free agent market, even in this economic climate.
What do you think the Sox should do with Beckett after the season? Offer him the long-term deal he probably deserves, or hold the line like they did with Jason Bay and take him back on their terms only? Aces in their prime don't exactly flood the market, after all.