BOSTON -- It's not as if Theo Epstein is afraid to pull the trigger.
The Red Sox GM's deadline-day deals involving Victor Martinez (2009), Manny Ramirez (2008) and Nomar Garciaparra (2004) prove that.
But he's not a shoot-wildly-from-the-hip guy.
If there's a deal to made at the right price -- or even, in certain situations, at a price that's bordering on the exorbitant -- he'll do it.
That wasn't the case this year.
And so, while the Yankees and Rays made deadline trades they feel enhanced their postseason chances, the injury-riddled Red Sox, scrambling to stay in playoff contention, made only minor moves.
While the Yankees were picking up a designated hitter in Lance Berkman, a backup outfielder in Austin Kearns, and bolstering their bullpen with the addition of Kerry Wood, the Rays added reliever Chad Qualls to their capable corps of relievers.
And what did the third-place Red Sox do?
They added a minor-league catcher who in May couldn't throw the ball back to his pitcher and a minor-league pitcher.
In what some Boston fans may consider addition by subtraction, unreliable reliever Ramon Ramirez was dealt to the Giants and weak-hitting outfielder Jeremy Hermida was designated for assignment.
Boston also had to give up a couple of low-level minor leaguers -- pitcher Roman Mendez and first baseman Chris McGuinness -- to the Rangers in exchange for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a one-time hot prospect who inexplicably found himself unable to throw with any accuracy this spring.
In exchange for Ramirez, the Red Sox got another reliever -- 23-year-old Daniel Turpen, who's 5-5 with one save and a 4.09 ERA, this year for Class AA Richmond.
You'd better believe it.
But if it'll make you feel any better, Epstein feels the same way.
He even used those same words when he came up to the press box after the trading deadline Friday and calmly and quietly answered not only reporters' questions, but also a rhetorical one of his own.
"Are we frustrated that we were not able to help this team today?" he said. "Yes, certainly."
It was more frustration for the Red Sox, who are still waiting for stars Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury to come off the disabled list, and only recently got back Martinez and erstwhile ace Josh Beckett.
They need help in the bullpen, where only setup man Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon can be relied upon. They need help in the outfield, both offensively and defensively.
But with the team in third place, Epstein didn't want to part with prospects for what he felt was overpriced, immediate help.
"A lot of relievers were moved," he said. "A lot of guys we were in on, guys who would have been an upgrade for us, guys we could have put in before Bard and Papelbon."
The Sox couldn't get any of those guys, however. Or they wouldn't give up what was required to get them. And they weren't about to make a trade that might not provide that much help now, and very well could wind up hurting them in the future.
"In past years," Epstein said, "we've been able to make some trades that immediately affected our big-league team. That was satisfying.
"This was frustrating. We made some aggressive offers, but didn't get it done. It's an empty feeling to come away empty-handed."
Being frustrated is one thing. Being foolhardy is quite another.
Epstein wasn't going to hand over any of his top prospects for just anyone who happened to be on the trading block.
"We weren't in the market for a 'reclamation project,' " he said. "We feel we have some internal solutions.
"Before we give up (Class AAA) Felix Doubront in a trade, we're going to put him in the bullpen and see how he looks."
The Red Sox also decided to take a look at 22-year-old outfielder Ryan Kalish, who started the season at Class AA.
"We were looking to make some changes in our outfield mix in anticipation of (Jacoby) Ellsbury coming back," Epstein said. "We wanted to get some more offense, if we could."
When they found they couldn't get it with a trade, they called up Kalish -- a player other teams coveted.
"Instead of putting Ryan Kalish in a deal we may regret some day," Epstein said, "we felt he was ready for a trial." Good move.
Rather than giving him up, the Sox brought him up.
The same will happen with Doubront, once he's acclimated to the bullpen. And you can expect Michael Bowden to be back in Boston soon as well, also working out of the 'pen.
"We felt this was the best way to help our club in 2010, and in the future," Epstein said.
And it's not as if, just because he didn't do any significant deals before yesterday's deadline, Epstein may not yet do something to give the ball club a boost down the stretch.
"We believe in this team," he said. "I want to be clear that we still think we have the ability to make the postseason. We've got a team that has the ability to get hot as we get healthy. The feeling in the clubhouse is that we can run off a bunch of wins.
"We're going to continue to be aggressive ..."
So Epstein may yet pull the trigger on an important deal.