Marc Stein has some interesting thoughts on the Celtics situation in his weekend dime. He makes a good case for why Paul Pierce is most likely staying with the Celtics (though he does present an argument for the Clippers and Celtics to make a deal involving Eric Bledsoe). But that doesn't mean that the Celtics won't make a trade this month.
Deep down, Ainge surely realizes that he probably wouldn't be able to get as much as he'd want back for Pierce or Garnett at this stage of their careers, even if KG ripped up that no-trade clause. So ... There's a rising expectation among some of Ainge's peers that Boston will instead try to move out at least one member of the Brandon Bass/Jason Terry/Courtney Lee trio before the deadline to make getting under the luxury-tax threshold his February focus. The Celtics are nearly $1.5 million over the tax line for this season and on course to exceed it again next season, as well.
I wasn't actually aware that we were over the tax threshold, but I'll take Stein's word for it. Paying tax in the short term makes sense for a team still "going for it" in Pierce and KG's final years. But what complicates matters is that when you pay tax for multiple years it ratchets up the pain over time. So don't expect the team to be willing to pay tax next year. Not to mention the fact that the team might not be convinced (any more) that this year's team has a legitimate shot. So a deal to shave some current of future salary could make a lot of sense.
With that said, Sullinger's injury might mean the team is less willing to move Brandon Bass unless they can get a power forward or center in return for the short term. Jason Terry (despite his ink work this summer) might also be a better fit somewhere else - especially if Pierce or KG decide to call it a career in the near future. Lee would be disappointing to move so soon since he's still young and seemingly starting to come into his own now (with a chance at a bigger role down the stretch).
But as usual, on any of these players it depends on the return coming back. If we can save money and add a younger player with some potential or perhaps even a draft pick, you have to at least think about that. We're most likely not going to get a lottery pick or package those guys for an All Star, but getting a 2nd tier prospect might not be out of the question.
And of course there's a possibility that they'll move one of those guys purely for the financial flexibility of shaving their contract off the books. (Note: Memphis has a $7.5M trade exception that they can use to bring in a guy for nothing if they want to.)
It might be time to start thinking long term with this team (without completely abandoning the present). Part of that long term planning means getting enough flexibility to make moves and stay out of the tax in future years. It isn't pretty, but money does matter and may matter more in the coming years.