The Oakland Athletics continued their wheeling-and-dealing ways Thursday by acquiring starting pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes prior to the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.
The surprising blockbuster trade was first reported by Alex Speier of WEEI.com and later confirmed in full by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Trying to confirm, but hearing Lester and Gomes might be moving for Cespedes— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 31, 2014
Final full trade: Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and $ to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes and the second pick in the competitive balance Comp B round.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2014
With Lester and the Red Sox unable to reach a contract agreement, it has been assumed for the past several days that he was a candidate to be dealt. However, Oakland was never viewed as a potential landing spot since it acquired pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs a couple weeks ago.
Who benefits most from this trade?
The A's clearly felt as though another arm was needed, and they were willing to part with a power-hitting star in the form of Cespedes to get it.
General manager Billy Beane has done an incredible job keeping the Athletics competitive over the years without a ton of financial backing. With Oakland sporting the league's best record at 66-41, he has been extremely aggressive.
ESPN's Adnan Virk is among those who believe that this trade is a sign of Beane and the A's proving their gusto:
Lester and Gomes for Cespedes??? Billy Beane all in on the #Athletics this year!— Adnan Virk, ESPN (@adnanESPN) July 31, 2014
Passan agreed and suggested that the Athletics are likely favored to win the World Series due to their deep and talented pitching staff:
Oakland's playoff rotation: Lester, Gray, Kazmir, Samardzija. If they weren't the favorite to win the World Series before, they are now.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2014
The trade makes sense on some level for Oakland since it truly believes that this is its opportunity to win it all. At the same time, though, Lester is a rental, while Cespedes is a 28-year-old slugger who doesn't become a free agent until 2018.
Because of that, Marc Bertrand of CSNNE.com believes the Sox came out on the winning end of this deal:
MLB Network's Fran Charles echoed that sentiment and was thoroughly impressed with the return Boston was able to coax out of Oakland:
Have to give the #RedSox credit...they would have lost Jon Lester to free agency at the end of the year...to get Cespedes back is shrewd— Fran Charles (@fran_charles) July 31, 2014
With a Lester trade potentially on the horizon Wednesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell expressed the utmost confidence in general manager Ben Cherington's ability to make the right decision for the organization, according to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes.
"What we have to do is step back from all of this and know there are decisions from the business side of the game, and have faith in the fact that Ben has a clear-cut plan to get us back to a team that will contend," Farrell said. "Our faith in Ben and the plan that's in place is steadfast."
It is entirely possible that Boston has even grander plans on the horizon following this trade. Not only do the Red Sox now have the two-time defending Home Run Derby winner on their roster, but ESPN's Jim Bowden believes they will make a big push to sign Lester back in free agency this offseason:
Red Sox plan is clear…trade 2 months of Lester for 3 1/2 years of Cespedes..then resign Lester in November #RedSox— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 31, 2014
MLB.com's Ian Browne also acknowledged that possibility and noted that the Red Sox could emerge as huge winners:
If the Sox have Cespedes and Lester for next season, this is a really, really good trade.— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) July 31, 2014
Jen Royle of the Boston Herald added that Cherington may have put himself in position to make Boston a contender once again in the near future in the event that Lester returns:
If the Sox win the WS with Cespedes/Ortiz/Napoli power bats and Lester top of rotation, Ben Cherington is my hero. #RedSox— Jen Royle (@Jen_Royle) July 31, 2014
If the Red Sox are able to pull that off, then this trade could ultimately become Gomes and two months of Lester for Cespedes, which is an unequivocal win for Boston.
Also, although there aren't any current plans to do so, Speier points out that the Red Sox could easily ship Cespedes elsewhere for other assets if they so choose:
Told Sox didn't acquire Cespedes w/intention of flipping him, but at $10.5M in '15, he'd fit in most team's budgets http://t.co/Wq8GDX0DDy— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 31, 2014
As big as Lester promises to be for the A's down the stretch due to his playoff experience, losing Cespedes certainly leaves a hole in Oakland's lineup. At the same time, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle believes that Cespedes' unwillingness to be a team player contributed to his departure:
Cespedes huge loss for #athletics, didn't help his status when he said he didn't want to play center field when he was needed there.— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) July 31, 2014
While most like to declare a trade a victory for one of the teams involved, ESPN's Buster Olney took a more diplomatic approach. He believes that both teams got exactly what they needed for the present and the future:
Lester/Cespedes a good deal for both teams. Oakland gets a dominant rental who can be a David Cone-like hired gun, BOS gets needed power.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 31, 2014
With that said, there is no question that there is now a ton of pressure on the A's to win it all. That is the only acceptable result after trading away a player in his prime who currently averages 22 home runs and 76 RBI per season in his MLB career.
If the Athletics do win the World Series, then Beane will be lauded for taking a risk and throwing caution to the wind. If they don't, however, he will be questioned for years to come.
Chances to be champions don't come about with great regularity, so it is tough to blame Beane for being aggressive. The Red Sox did well to get something of value for a player who may very well leave via free agency, but the main focus will most definitely be on how Lester performs in the coming months.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter