Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, new general manager Ben Cherington announced at his introductory news conference Tuesday, essentially ending the starter's 2012 season before it begins.

He knows he's a much better pitcher than he showed in 2011, Cherington said. We look forward to having him as part of the staff, hopefully in 2013.

Lackey had the worst season of his career, going 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA in the second year of a five-year, $82.5 million deal. Never in his career did he exceed a 4.70 ERA. And, this year, Lackey only recorded 108 strikeouts, the lowest total since his rookie season in 2002.

Red Sox starters went 4-13 with a 7.08 ERA down the stretch as the Red Sox staged a historic collapse by blowing a nine-game lead in the wild-card race. Lackey himself went 0-2 with a 9.13 ERA in his five starts in the month of September.

Lackey then became the center of controversy when the Boston Globe reported that he, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett were drinking beer, eating fried chicken and playing video games in the Red Sox clubhouse on their off-days.

Cherington defended the pitcher, though.

John Lackey pitched through circumstances this year that not everyone in this room could understand, Cherington said, adding that Lackey was dealing with on-field and off-field issues last season.

The injury announcement seems to end speculation that the Red Sox would try to cut ties with Lackey. While Lackey looks to be staying put, the Sox have several players who will be free agents this offeason. David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon are two of the team's current free agents Cherington said he'd like to bring back.

When former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein left to the Chicago Cubs to be president of baseball operations, the Red Sox initially asked for Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza, and at one point proposed the Cubs take pitcher John Lackey's contract as part of the compensation, according to a major league source.

Cherington went through most of his news conference before dropping the Lackey bombshell. He had just said that the Red Sox were strong at the top of their rotation.

We need to build some pitching depth, Cherington said. Most likely we'll do that through some good, creative, perhaps buy-low acquisitions. We're going to do our diligence on every available player, but I think I need to hit on some pitchers this offseason, much as we hit on Alfredo Aceves last offseason.