A keen sense of the obvious reveals what all of us know, the Red Sox relief pitching is killing them.
The Sox are 12th overall in pitching (ahead of powers Tampa and KC), 13th in relief pitching, and last in ERA (5.67) in 'close and late' situations, as well as 12th from innings seven to nine.
Looking deeper, we see they are 12th in relief strikeouts per nine innings, 11th in bullpen K/BB ratio, and 13th in OPS. They are only 10th in blown saves, because they are last in save opportunities. They are 11th in save percentage.
Why all the whining about the ineffectual bullpen? Obviously, over the long haul, strength up the middle wins championships, whether it's basketball (Duncan, Shaq), football (Brady et al.), baseball, checkers, or chess.
What options does Theo Epstein have? We have heard that the trade market is lean, and several circumstances argue against trading the young stud arms (Papelbon, Lester, Sanchez, Rozier, Alvarez). First, with so many teams in contention, the supply may be small and the price high. Second, the Sox have options, ranging from promoting an Alvarez or Papelbon, to signing power arm top choice Craig Hansen.
After Curt Schilling returns, somebody goes to the bullpen, probably Arroyo, keeping Wakefield and Mirabelli on track every fifth, and dramatically strengthening the middle compared to John Halama (we're barely knew ya). This isn't a knock on Arroyo, but rather reflecting the reality that behind Schilling, Clement, and Wakefield, neither Wells nor Miller are bullpen candidates.
This also presumes that the current group stays healthy, a tenuous position among the greybeards in the rotation.
So, Theo, we understand you're taking the most 'prudent' option, patience, while doing behind the scenes work with $cott Bora$ and have the minor league guns under the microscope. We're patient, and we're waiting.