The Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians were discussing a three-way trade Thursday night that would send Victor Martinez to Boston, Clay Buchholz to Cleveland and prospects flying in all directions, according to clubs that spoke to both teams.
The Red Sox also would attempt to move recently acquired first baseman Adam LaRoche, either to a third team or in a companion deal, to make room for catcher/first baseman Martinez in their lineup, one source said.
The Red Sox have spent several days working on parallel deals with Toronto for Roy Halladay, San Diego for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and Cleveland for Martinez, but there were indications late Thursday and early Friday that they were making little or no headway with Toronto and San Diego, and that they were having trouble making the pieces fit with Cleveland.
A source suggested the Red Sox would need the third team only to acquire Gonzalez because that would make LaRoche a nearly irrelevant part of their club. An official of yet another club said Friday that Boston would have to move LaRoche whether it acquired Gonzalez or Martinez.
"Either way," the official said, "they'd just need to dump LaRoche. Where would he play?"
Outside of the need to find a new home for LaRoche, it wasn't immediately clear why Boston and Cleveland needed a third trade partner to make the deal work. But adding that third club would also create a wider prospect pool for the Indians and Padres to choose from. And with Boston still wavering on whether it would include Buchholz, either deal would require all the prospects these teams can muster.
In fact, according to one source familiar with the thinking of the Boston brass, its attention Thursday was concentrated almost exclusively on deals other than the Martinez trade. Yet the price tags on Halladay and Gonzalez were still so steep, even on Friday morning, that other clubs were predicting the Red Sox will find a way to trade for Martinez by the 4 p.m. ET deadline because he's the only realistically obtainable difference-maker who fits.
In the meantime, the Red Sox aren't the only team talking to the Indians about Martinez. Cleveland is also still in conversations with Tampa Bay about the 30-year-old catcher. The Indians were heavily scouting the Rays' system Thursday, and had multiple scouts watching the Rays' Triple-A Durham team.
Although it would be difficult for the financially challenged Rays to absorb the approximately $2 million left on Martinez's contract this year, sources say Tampa Bay has concluded it can do that without subtracting a higher-priced player such as left-hander Scott Kazmir at the same time -- at least until the offseason. Still, one source who has spoken with Tampa's front office continued to characterize a Martinez deal as a long shot.
Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com