The Boston Red Sox have announced the trade of left-handed ace Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics. In exchange for Lester and platoon outfielder Jonny Gomes’ services, the Sox will receive slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and future draft considerations. The deal comes at a time when the Athletics are going for it in their quest for a World Series title; while giving Boston significant talent in return for a player who is heading to free agency in a matter of months.
The deal is perhaps the best scenario for both squads. As Oakland builds upon their young talented roster, they have augmented their talent base through the acquisition of Lester as well as Jeff Samardzija, in a separate pre-All Star trade with the Chicago Cubs. Whereas pitching is a critical component of championship teams, the A’s have bolstered a position with a playoff-proven ace in Lester and a solid complimentary stud pitcher in the All Star Samardzija.
Acquiring talent of this type doesn’t come with its associated costs; and the A’s had to depart with an outfielder with exceptional power as well as a cannon arm to patrol the Green Monster for years to come. Red Sox fans have been looking for another bat in the lineup to protect David Ortiz and reduce the pressure on “Big Papi” and first baseman Mike Napoli from being the sole run producers in the lineup. In Cespedes, the Red Sox not only have a bat for the present team, but a player they can build around as Ortiz approaches the end of his accomplished career. In fact, Cespedes could in fact prolong Ortiz’s career by lessening the workload on the left-handed slugger.
The Red Sox lost a great pitcher in Lester, but the loss could be a temporary one. As a free agent, Boston can still pursue Lester in the off-season much as they planned to in the first place. With contract extension talks tabled for the remainder of this lost season anyhow, the Sox are in the same position they were in a few days ago. In fact, Lester has gone as far as state a trade from Boston would have no impact on his decision to sign his big contract. Of course, this is all assuming that the Red Sox want Lester long-term, given their initial contract offer back in the spring.
When word began to filter out that the Red Sox were seriously considering a trade of Lester, I thought the move would likely be a long-term proposition. Clearly the Red Sox would not be able to secure the services of a major league talent in exchange for a two month rental, right? Well, after months of skepticism centered on general manager Ben Cherington’s failure in building a defending championship roster, his big trade on Thursday may go down as one of the most heralded moves in recent Red Sox history. In doing so, Cherington has hastened the rebuilding process by adding a critical piece to their long-term success. Come spring training, fans may realize that this trade resulted in both Lester AND Cespedes being on the active roster; once again elevating championship aspirations in Boston.