John Lackey is expected to sit the next season out. (Winslow Townson / AP)

“John Lackey will go ahead and have Tommy John surgery,” Cherington said.

“John Lackey pitched through circumstances this year that I don't think any of us can fully understand, and he got beat up for it along the way.

“He was dealing with some stuff both on the field and off the field that were really difficult. I thought he showed tremendous toughness pitching through that. That game he pitched in New York at the end of the season where he helped us as we were grinding away for every win we could, I thought got overshadowed by how the season ended.”

Ben Cherington meets the press. (Jim Rogash / Getty Images)

The Sox remove one of the beer drinkers from their ranks at a time when they’re trying to alter their clubhouse culture. And even though Lackey was by all accounts an excellent teammate — we’re now learning he pitched hurt all season — something needed to change among the starting five, and this is it.

From Lackey’s perspective, he gets a year away from the slings and arrows, a year to get his life in order — he’s reportedly in the midst of a divorce — and maybe even a year to assess the way he’s conducted himself since signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract.

What his absence will mean for the Sox and another deep-pocketed American League East team farther south — is another matter. It didn’t take long for speculation about C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees as a replacement to begin.