GM wants to improve Red Sox

General manager Ben Cherington thinks the Boston Red Sox are in position to contend for a playoff spot, and he's intent on doing everything he can to improve the team ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.

"We feel good about (our chances)," Cherington said Friday on 98.5 The Sports Hub radio. "We've gone through some tough stretches. As I've said before, I think the strength of the team is really just its toughness; that includes players, coaches and manager.

"We're in position now to we hope win a lot of games and make a nice run here in the second half."

With the Red Sox in third place in the AL East and only one game back in the wild-card standings entering Friday's game at Fenway Park against the Toronto Blue Jays, Cherington said the Sox are focused on improving the team.

"Yeah, we feel like we're in this thing. ... We can be as good as anyone in the league and beat anyone in the league if we're generally healthy and playing well," he said, adding that "our fans and our players deserve to be given every chance to win the second half of the season, and that's our aim."

However, he said the Red Sox weren't looking to trade big-name players such as Jon Lester, Josh Beckett or Jacoby Ellsbury.

"I can't see us doing anything that we felt would diminish the team in the short term."

Cherington acknowledged that "a lot" of the Red Sox players' names would come up in discussions, but said while it makes for good entertainment, fans shouldn't read too much into it.

"This time of year ... all sorts of things get thrown off the wall," he said. "And sometimes those things are a part of a conversation between two GMs, and sometimes they're speculation from a writer, and sometimes they're things that people hear, and sometimes those things are accurate, and sometimes they're not."

Pressed further about Lester, specifically, Cherington said that every major league team would want to have someone with as a good as track record as Lester -- the Red Sox included -- despite the left-hander's recent struggles.

Cherington said he would be aggressive in terms of adding players to help the team down the stretch, but only to a certain extent.

"If there's ways to improve the team prior to July 31, we'll look to do that. ... We won't look to make a trade just for the sake of making a trade."

Ellsbury will be a free agent after the 2013 season, but Cherington said he hasn't yet had substantive discussions with agent Scott Boras about a long-term deal -- mainly because of Ellsbury's injury history.

The GM expressed confidence in Ellsbury's skills, saying, "We know that when he's on the field he's a dynamic player and helps us win games."

He added that he hoped the center fielder would remain with the Red Sox for a long time.