If you're a Democrat, recall the feeling of emptiness when George W. Bush somehow won a second term in 2004. If you're a Republican, transport yourself back to that bleak day in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated John McCain.

Now stand united, because no matter your political persuasion, your operative phrase of despair applies to Red Sox starter John Lackey: Four more long years.

The free agent signing that seemed like a good idea in the winter of 2009 now looks like an unmitigated disaster.

Lackey's latest meltdown came yesterday against the Blue Jays, who rocked him for nine hits and seven runs in just 21/3 innings of a 9-7 defeat. He fell to 5-8, while his ERA climbed to 7.47.

That's the highest ERA of any of the 148 pitchers with at least 50 innings this year. Were Lackey, say, Michael Bowden, he'd have been shipped to Pawtucket a long time ago. He often operates under the impression that he has pitched well, but the numbers don't lie.

Lackey was once again an equal-opportunity offender yesterday, allowing hits to all but two members of the Jays lineup. They ranged from a bloop RBI single by John McDonald to a no-doubt-about-it home run by Aaron Hill, with pretty much everything in between.

He left the mound to a chorus of boos previously reserved for such flops as Julio Lugo and Byung-Hyun Kim. He should brace himself, because unless he turns things around, there's a lot more where that came from.

Lackey's as puzzled as anyone.

"Yeah," Lackey said. "If you look at my career, yeah. It's pretty obvious."

Yesterday was a better one from a PR standpoint. Lackey often damages his cause with churlish sound bites, but what he says or how he says it isn't the issue. He wishes to be judged on his performance and his performance alone, and there's no way to sugarcoat how bad he's been.