An old joke among fans of the affair goes: “What’s red, white, and blue (write the corresponding team colors) and play golf?” In less than a month, around New York’s various water wells, the answer, of course, will be: the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately for Beantown fans, this year is no joke.

As of this writing, the Red Sox are on a 3-12 slump, 7.5 games behind the hated Yankees in the AL East and six complete games behind the White Sox and Twins in the run. by the Wildcard. This afternoon they face the Athletics who are 23-8 in their last 31 and see Barry Zito, who is pitching for a contract and has won eight of his last ten starts. They do it without the services of the motor house of their lineup, David Ortiz (cardio tests), Manny Ramirez (knee) and Willy Mo Pena (wrist), all back in Boston. Star receiver and team captain Jason Varitek has been out for three weeks recovering from knee surgery.

Let’s stack it up a bit, shall we? In the past seven games, the Red Sox are hitting an anemic .176 driving just six safeties against Kirk Saarloos and helping last night. Opposing lineups are hitting Boston pitching to the tune of .301 and Boston has been outscored 32-14 during the span. The Red Sox are 8-20 for the month of August.

When all is said and done, most will remember the Boston Massacre, where in a four-day span of Aug. 18-21, the Yankees swept the BoSox five games in a row for a total score of 51-26. The Red Sox were halfway through the Bronx Bombers at the start of that series.

In my opinion, the Red Sox’s problems started much earlier. In early summer, when the Yankees were reeling from injuries and basically starting a field of Melky Cabrera, Bernie Williams and Bubba Crosby, the biggest lead the Red Sox could build was four games on July 4. Since then, the Yankees have gone 31-17 and amassed 11 games in the standings.

Another mistake may have been little genius Theo Epstein’s decision to stick with it before the trade deadline. Sure they picked Javy Lopez, but the former Braves’ best days are behind him, particularly on the defensive end, where he rarely stops balls on the ground and rival base runners run at will.

Epstein also failed to pick a useful starter by choosing youngsters John Lester (7-2, 4.76, .294) and Kyle Snyder (3-3, 6.91, .339) instead. The bullpen (despite rookie Jason Papelbon’s good year) has been ineffective with a 4.40 ERA and 17 missed saves. Former David Wells has been Boston’s best starter of late.

The Red Sox have 16 home games in September, but the horse is already out of the barn.

What is red, white and blue and playing golf?

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