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Dan Shaughnessy

What happened to the Red Sox?

Jon Lester’s record fell to 5-6 after he surrendered four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Yankees last week.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jon Lester’s record fell to 5-6 after he surrendered four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Yankees last week.

The Red Sox are a trainwreck.

Where do we start?

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It’s not about the feel-good stories of Daniel Nava, Franklin Morales, Pedro Ciriaco, and Mauro Gomez. It’s not about the crazy notion that despite everything that’s happened, the Red Sox are in the wild-card scrum and within 2½ games of a phony one-game October playoff. It’s not about the bad luck of 20 players on the disabled list, or a ticket-distribution streak that has become a local punch line.

It’s about abject underperformance. It’s about the third-highest payroll in baseball and not a single playoff game victory since 2008. It’s about a sense of entitlement from guys who haven’t done jack since 2007. It’s about a franchise that has become a parody of itself, led by an ownership group that has lost all sense of accountability. These Sox bosses would rather be selling bricks, watching soccer, blaming Theo, promoting bad NESN programming, and clinging to the notion that they are still popular and relevant on the local sports landscape.

New Yorkers who tuned in to the weekend series at Fenway Park surely must have been asking themselves, “What’s happened to the Red Sox?’’

We are asking the same thing.

This is no longer a small sample. The last-place Red Sox are 43-43 at the All-Star break. Since last Sept. 1, they are 50-63. They have been playing horrible baseball for a stretch of 113 games.

They are also front-runners. Take a good look at some of the scores. No team looks better when things are going well. The Sox have scored the second-most runs in baseball, but they are a .500 team. They have almost the same run differential as the Angels, who are 10 games over .500. That’s because the Sox look great when they are running around the bases, winning games by scores of 12-1 and 15-5. They crush mediocre pitching and pad their numbers. In games decided by four or more runs they are 21-12. In games decided by three runs or fewer they are 22-31. They are 17-21 in one- and two-run games. They are 1-5 when the score is tied after seven. Front-runners. Put them in a close game and they fold like cardboard in the rain.

It was the same last September. In the Worst Month Ever, when they went 7-20, the Red Sox won games by scores of 18-9, 18-6, 12-7, and 14-0.

Front-runners. Chokers. How else can you be second in the majors in runs and still have a 43-43 record?

Unfortunately, this is not likely to change.

The 2012 Red Sox are strangled by contracts issued to (among others) Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Bobby Jenks, Mike Cameron, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The owners (anybody heard from John Henry since he burst into the 98.5 studios?) can truthfully keep telling us that they have the third-highest payroll in baseball while they operate like the Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates. They spent freely and they spent badly and now they are done. Live with it. No more big-name acquisitions. Prepare for the steady soft parade of Avileses and Shoppachs. And watch the lips of the folks from NESN telling you how great everything is going.

Josh Beckett and Jon Lester should be embarrassed. They have come back from the disgrace of September 2011 and done almost nothing. When the Sox needed them most last weekend, both spit the bit. Again. Beckett and Lester have won nine of their 32 starts.

How does this happen? Great talents in their prime get a chance to redeem themselves from the betrayal and lack of professionalism they demonstrated in 2011, and they come back and nothing changes. It is unacceptable. These guys still walk around like they just won the World Series.

Adrian Gonzalez? Six homers at the break. An OBP of .329, with 64 strikeouts and only 23 walks? All this for the bargain price of $154 million? Gonzo has been part of two of the worst collapses in hardball history over the last two Septembers and I’m beginning to think this is not bad luck.

Good thing they dumped Kevin Youkilis, right? Will Middlebrooks got hurt almost immediately, so we ended up with Gomez kick-boxing at third base against the Yankees while Youk was hitting game-winning homers and being named American League player of the week for the White Sox — while still being paid by the Red Sox. At least the Sox have Brent Lillibridge (.162) to show for it.

Wow.

Now Crawford tells us that he eventually will need surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.

Why wait? This is a lost season and it’s not like Carl had any impact last year. There’s no sense rushing to get back to hop aboard this southbound train. Have the surgery now, Carl. Get out while there is still time. You do not want to be associated with the 2012 Red Sox.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.
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