Jose Contreras was a highly sought-after free agent in the winter leading up to that '03 season and the Red Sox battled mightily for his services, only to lose out to the Yankees. Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino was so frustrated at his team losing out on Contreras at the time that he referred to the Yankees as the "Evil Empire".
Both pitchers, who are a long way from 2003, will report to Triple-A Pawtucket. The moves came on the same day the Red Sox learned they might be without reliever Andrew Bailey for the rest of the season.
"Brandon pitched for [Red Sox manager] John [Farrell] last year in Toronto and signed with the Mets. Didn't quite work out for him quite the way he wanted it to, so he became available," said Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "Obviously he was here before. We felt it made sense to sign him and watch him pitch in Triple-A. He's a guy who has a track record in the big leagues, a track record of getting good right-handed hitters out. He's pitched here before. He's pitched in big games."
"In Contreras' case, we watched him more recently," Cherington said. "We knew he had an out coming up. We saw some good signs of how he was throwing the ball more recently in [Indianapolis], so we decided he was worth a shot. Both guys are going to be in Pawtucket for a while. We'll see if an opportunity presents at some point. If it doesn't at some point in August, then if we think there's a better opportunity somewhere else, we'll work with them on that. But they both have an opportunity to show us what they can do, and hopefully they come in and help us."
Lyon pitched in 37 games for the Mets this season before being released earlier this month, going 2-2 with a 4.8 ERA. In 12 Major League seasons, Lyon is 42-47 with 79 saves and a 4.16 ERA.
The 41-year-old Contreras has pitched mainly in relief this season and that's how he would be used if he eventually emerges in Boston. He last pitched in the Major Leagues on May 27, ending a seven-game stint with the Pirates that included a 9.00 ERA.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Jason Mastrodonato is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmastrodonato. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.