It's easy to say that what the Red Sox need this season and in future seasons is consistent excellence in their starting pitching. Both the 2004 and 2007 World Series-winning Red Sox teams had starting pitching that ranked at or near the top of the American League. Where will that starting pitching come from? That's not as easy to say. Part two of a three-part series.

For the Oakland Athletics, Mark Mulder is the gift that keeps on giving.

Along with Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, Mulder made up one-third of the best starting rotation in the American League in his five seasons in Oakland. When Mulder appeared to peak in value, the Athletics swapped him to the St. Louis Cardinals for a 24-year-old youngster named Dan Haren.

Three seasons later, after Haren started the All-Star Game for the American League, the Athletics traded him to Arizona for 19-year-old lefty Brett Anderson. Anderson has fought injuries early in his career, but he has a 3.57 ERA in more than 400 major-league innings and is still just 24 years old.

Nick Swisher is a similar gift that has kept on giving.

Oakland drafted Swisher in 2002, with the draft pick it received as compensation for losing Johnny Damon to the Red Sox via free agency. Swisher played three-plus seasons with the Athletics, compiling an on-base percentage of .361 and hitting 20 or more home runs three times. The Athletics then swapped Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for 22-year-old prospect Gio Gonzalez.