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Red Sox demote Allen Craig to Triple-A

TORONTO -- The Boston Red Sox made two roster moves involving four players Sunday, optioning slumping outfielder Allen Craig and reliever Robbie Ross Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket and promoting outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and pitcher Steven Wright.

The demotion of Craig is not surprising given his performance with the Red Sox. The former All-Star is batting .135 (7-for-52) with one home run and two RBIs in 24 games this season and has a .130 average since his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals in July 2014.

But the move is stunning in the context of Craig's career. The 30-year-old played a key role in the Cardinals' appearances in two World Series (2011 and 2013) and posted a .291/.343/.460/.803 slash line in parts of five seasons with St. Louis.

But Craig has not been the same player since sustaining a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot near the end of the 2013 season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Craig, who started only 10 of the team's first 30 games, had trouble adjusting to the role of part-time player.

"When we sat and met at the outset of spring training, we talked about focusing on getting him back to being the best hitter he could be and reestablishing his strengths," Farrell said. "We felt like we were able to get some momentum going, [but] when spring training was coming to an end, we knew the role was going to be different. ... That's been a difficult thing for him.

"We sent him out to try get back on track and get him more regular, more consistent at-bats, not only for his own production but maybe so he can get into a situation where he can come back and help us. This is as much about Allen as it is us and the current stretch we're going through. We felt like the best and most clear path to get us back on track is to have every player hopefully performing to the best of their abilities. For Allen, that meant more regular at-bats at Triple-A for the time being."

The Red Sox still owe Craig roughly $25 million on the five-year, $31 million contract he signed before the 2013 season with the Cardinals. The deal was back-loaded, with Craig, who is being paid $5.5 million this season, due to be paid $9 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017. There is also a club option for $13 million in 2018, with a $1 million buyout.

Craig came to the Red Sox in a trading deadline deal with pitcher Joe Kelly, with the Cardinals receiving veteran pitcher John Lackey in return. So far, that deal is lopsided in the Cardinals' favor; Lackey, who is pitching for the major-league minimum, is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA for the Cardinals, who have won four of his six starts. Kelly, meanwhile, has a 6.35 ERA in six starts and is in danger of being demoted to the bullpen.

Bradley was in Boston's starting lineup Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays, batting eighth and playing right field. As Boston's everyday center fielder last season, Bradley struggled mightily at the plate, batting just .198. Despite his Gold Glove-caliber defense and a good spring, he was never more than a long shot to crack the Red Sox's starting lineup this year.

But Bradley has posted a .343/.393/.465/.857 slash line in Pawtucket, with a home run among his 10 extra-base hits and 13 multihit games. At the time of his call-up, Bradley was in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak in which he was batting .467 (14-for-30).

Another Red Sox outfielder, Shane Victorino, is returning from a two-game rehab assignment in Portland and will join the team in Toronto in time to fly with the club Sunday night to Oakland.

With the Athletics scheduled to start left-handers Scott Kazmir and Drew Pomeranz in the next two games, Victorino will be in the starting lineup, Farrell said.

"When Vic gets back to us, Vic's going to get left-handed starters, if not more," Farrell said. "But Jackie's arrival here gives us a premium defender, and we certainly like him against a lot of right-handed pitchers. We'll find the right matchups. I'm not going to say it's a strict platoon situation, by any means."

Even though Farrell has called Bradley the best center fielder in the league, Farrell said he will not move Mookie Betts to right and have Bradley play center when they're both in the lineup.

"It's important we maintain consistency with Mookie," Farrell said. "The way he has transitioned, there are benefits to continuity."

This is Bradley's second call-up this season. He was recalled on April 28 -- coincidentally, when Wright was sent down -- but did not play, and the Red Sox sent him back after one day for another reliever.

Wright is coming off two outstanding starts of seven innings apiece, in which he allowed a total of one run on seven hits and five walks. He was 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA overall in four starts for the PawSox, but Farrell said Wright will pitch out of the bullpen for now.

"We're not making changes in the rotation as of today," Farrell said.

Ross, meanwhile, has been a disappointment since coming in a trade from Texas, posting a 6.17 ERA in 13 appearances.