There's been no fanfare at all, but John Lackey has emerged as a force for the Red Sox. Just in time, too.

The Red Sox are such obvious locks to make the playoffs, the focus on them is beginning to soften.

The air conditioning does not need to be on all the time, the Patriots are getting started, the Celtics and Bruins can't be far behind — and the Red Sox seem to be on pause. They're staying out of the news, playing out the schedule, keeping things nice and easy until the playoffs start.

But you'd miss a remarkable turn of events if you took your eyes off the Red Sox right now — especially tonight.

You'd miss a Lackey start — an event that, for a big change, deserves everyone's attention and, more and more, praise as well.

In his brief and disappointing tenure with the Red Sox, far too many of Lackey's start have been wince-worthy, opposing lineups hitting the $82.5 million pitcher's uninspired offerings hard and frequently.