The decision to have the 28-year-old Key captain a 12-man squad featuring eight players with Test or one-day international experience, comes a day after he scored 178 not out for Kent against New Zealand at Canterbury.
Also included in the team is pace bowler Matthew Hoggard, who earlier this year was dropped from the senior England side after they lost the first Test on their tour of New Zealand before going on to win the three-match series 2-1.
"In choosing this squad we were keen to show consistency by giving further opportunities to players who were involved with either the Test or one-day squad during the winter or the England Lions," said Geoff Miller, England's recently-appointed national selector.
"There is intense competition for places in the senior squad at present and all of these players will be keen to make an impression on the selectors ahead of the international season," the former England off-spinner added.
"Robert Key enjoyed an excellent season for Kent last year, was recently named in the England performance squad and he will bring his experience of leading his county to the captain's role.
"Matthew Hoggard was left out of the last two Test Matches in New Zealand but he is a fighter and he will not want to give up his England place easily.
"He has started the season with a strong performance for Yorkshire and this will be another chance for him to show what he is capable of against an international side."
The first Test of a three-match series between England and New Zealand starts at Lord's on May 15.
England Lions squad: Robert Key (Kent, capt), Ravi Bopara (Essex) Michael Carberry (Hampshire), Matthew Hoggard (Yorkshire), Steven Kirby (Gloucestershire), Matt Prior (Sussex, wkt), Graham Onions (Durham), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Owais Shah (Middlesex), Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire), Chris Tremlett (Hampshire), Luke Wright (Sussex).