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Is trading Youkilis worth the hassle?

What could Sox get back in return at this point?

As the calendar winds down to July 31, the prevailing trade winds seem poised to blow Kevin Youkilis out of town.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are the latest team to join the Youk Watch, with FoxSports' Ken Rosenthal reporting the improbably-contending Bucs, who are making noise in the NL Central despite virtually no production from their corner infielders, might be on the buying side of the trade deadline for the first time in two decades.

The Dodgers and Phillies are among the other trade suitors for Youkilis, who has been forced into lame duck status by the rapid emergence of Will Middlebrooks and the semi-impending return of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, which would essentially destroy the Jenga-esque platoon of Youkilis, Middlebrooks and Adrian Gonzalez between third, first and right field.

But is a trade really a foregone conclusion? Is a pitcher such as James McDonald or Aaron Harang on the way as Youkilis heads West - or really West?

Certainly, Youkilis appears to be something of a liability for the Red Sox at this point, advancing in age, unable to stay healthy for an entire season, and now hitting just .231 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 35 games.

But despite the increasing number of interested teams, the Red Sox need to first decide for themselves, are they buyers, or sellers? The Red Sox are having enough trouble just staying over .500 with 100 games to play, which is usually the refrain of a seller.

But in the first season of the second Wild Card, and in a division playing weaker than expected, the Red Sox might still be every bit the buyers as their prospective trade partners. And with every day that passes with Youkilis failing to catch fire, does his trade value sink to a level where the return on a deal makes trading him a less-than-lateral move?

Perhaps the simple math of addition by subtraction, moving Youkilis to allow Middlebrooks to play every day, while allowing the struggling Gonzalez to focus on his primary defensive position - and by extension, his hitting - would be enough of a boost to carry the Red Sox back into contention.

Or, perhaps, the Red Sox trade Youkilis, who they aren't intending to bring back in 2013, and he turns into their version of Kendrick Perkins for a grateful National League team, while the Red Sox find themselves lamenting their lack of corner infield depth in September as another postseason slides by.

Sometimes, the best trade is the one you don't make.

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