You really want to just hand a rotation spot to John Lackey? I don't see what the downside would be in letting them compete for a spot. If all things are even, put Lackey in the bullpen to limit the stress on his arm coming off of surgery and allow Doubront to develop further. If Lackey suddenty pitches like a Cy Young caliber pitcher again, we'd have an ace at the top of the rotation and Doubront could either pitch out of the bullpen or go down to the minors the for the month it would take someone to get hurt. If neither pitcher does well, we won't be stuck with both of them in the rotation.
I wouldn't say we're just handing it to him. He's low man on the totem poll at this point.
A healthy Buchholz is probably our best starter as he looked a lot more like 2010/2011 Buch from the end of May on than the guy we saw to start last season. He was healthy pretty much all last year, I see little reason to be skeptical on that front in 2013.
Jon Lester has been a 200 IP, ERA+ between 124-144 starter for 4 seasons prior to last year and will be 29 next season. The team is not going to give up on him without damn near another full year as bad as 2012. Given that he had a massive home/road split that he's never had before there is some legitimate reason for optimism here too.
Felix Doubront (as we've covered already) is young, makes people miss, and already took one big step forward last season. He's the exact kind of guy we should be looking forward to taking another step forward in 2013.
Ryan Dempster isn't my favorite pitcher in the world but we just signed him. He's locked in to the 2013 rotation and a big part of why the FO signed him is specifically because he does show up and throw 30-35 starts year after year.
That makes John Lackey and his $15M contract our #5 starter. He'll be given more rope than probably any other #5 starter in the league because of that contract, so he likely won't face real competition from Morales and Aceves in spring training, but he's clearly the bottom rung on the starting rotation ladder that our young guys are trying to climb. For example, if Ruby shows up to AAA and starts torching people all through April, May, and into June then Lackey is the first guy the FO will look to unload, even if that includes a good bit of contract subsidy. Lackey pitching well would make that scenario much more possible/palette-able though.