TORONTO -- When the Red Sox crossed the border into Canada on Sunday night, they were hoping this trip would be a catalyst to playoff contention.
Now, sobered by three straight losses to the Blue Jays that buried them deeper in last place in the AL East, the Sox this weekend visit the Tampa Bay Rays with an altered agenda. With the trading deadline a week away and little incentive to keep this group intact, this almost surely represents the end of the road for any number of Sox players.
Red Sox manager John Farrell acknowledged as much, even before the Sox fell 8-0 to the Jays on Thursday afternoon.
"I will say this," Farrell said, "I think there will be moves that will go on regardless of our record over the next seven days."
Not surprisingly, with Sox majority owner John W. Henry and CEO Larry Lucchino both coming out in the past 24 hours to reiterate the status quo on Jon Lester contract talks -- there will be none until after the season -- there is renewed speculation the Sox might even entertain trading their ace left-hander.
Multiple sources on both sides say that is not where this is headed. The Lester camp says the subject of a possible trade has never been broached with the pitcher, and GM Ben Cherington has made it a priority to keep Lester informed of all developments. The pitcher was even given advance notice by Cherington a couple of days ago, according to a source, that ownership was planning to comment on the current status of negotiations.
"This doesn't change anything," said Lester, who reiterated his preference to re-sign with the Sox.
On the Sox side, one club source termed it "highly unlikely" the Sox would trade Lester, while another club source said he doesn't expect a trade and still maintains some confidence that Lester will be re-signed.
It's not out of the realm of possibility, but trading Lester when he is having arguably the best season of his career -- after a week in which the Sox received subpar starts from Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz and Rubby De La Rosa against the Blue Jays -- would make for a very tough sell.
Not so for others in the Sox clubhouse. Peavy almost certainly will be dealt, with one source insisting that the San Francisco Giants are in the forefront of potential suitors. The Kansas City Royals are considering Jonny Gomes to satisfy their need for a right-handed outfield bat. Farrell noted Thursday that while Will Middlebrooks is making obvious progress in Pawtucket, he won't be back until the Sox make some roster adjustments, which could involve moving shortstop Stephen Drew.
Drew is one of two Scott Boras clients who did not get the kind of multiyear offers they were expecting last winter and signed after the season began. The other was Kendrys Morales, who, like Drew, signed a one-year deal, with Minnesota, and on Thursday was traded back to the team he played for last season, the Seattle Mariners.
"Hasn't crossed my mind, buddy," Drew said about a possible trade. "I've been there before. I don't worry about it. My job is to play and do the best I can."
Other potential trade pieces: Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller is highly coveted and is a free agent after the season, but the Sox don't have an obvious replacement for him. To date, they haven't offered him an extension, but that could still be in the offing. Left-handers Felix Doubront and Craig Breslow are eminently available, as is right-hander Edward Mujica. Middlebrooks can't be ruled out as a potential trading piece, either.
The priority now for the Sox, rather than trying to remain in the playoff race, is to identify and acquire players who will help them in the future, which is why teams say they are asking for outfielders, an obvious need, in return.
"This was a tough series," veteran catcher David Ross said. "We needed to win more than one game."
Ross insisted that the trade deadline has not monopolized clubhouse conversation.
"We have a group of guys who keep our heads down and play," he said. "I don't know what guys are thinking, but we're not talking about it."
Just days ago, the talk headed into the weekend centered on the matchup between the Rays, who have won seven in a row and have the league's best record since being 18 games under .500, and the Sox, who had won eight of nine after mauling the Blue Jays 14-1 on Monday night.
"I know they don't care for us too much," Ross said. "It was competitive last year; I think they thought they were better than us, and they weren't."
There was also the subplot of the bad blood between Rays ace David Price and Sox slugger David Ortiz, with Ortiz saying he no longer has any respect for Price after the pitcher intentionally drilled him with a fastball back on May 30, while Price said Ortiz sometimes believes he's "bigger than the game."
But in the ninth inning here Thursday, Ortiz had back spasms during his final at-bat and is uncertain of playing Friday night. And Price presumably has bigger issues on his mind; he is highly sought after on the trade market and could be making his final start for the Rays.