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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blockbuster Trade Alert: Red Sox Send Lester & Gomes to Oakland for Cespedes

It is crazy that it came to this: somehow the Red Sox' front office screwed up things so badly by offering Jon Lester the laughable sum of four years and $70 million in spring training that now he's being shipped to Oakland along with Jonny Gomes for star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance draft pick.

Lester made all the right moves by putting off contract talk during the season and turning in the best year of his career (10-7, 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 149 strikeouts) while Boston continued to bumble their way through an awful season (48-60). The more time that went by as the Red Sox plummeted and nothing productive seemed to come on Lester's contract front, this was inevitable.

The fact that the Red Sox got Cespedes (.256 batting average, 17 homers, 67 RBIs, .303 OBP, .464 SLG and 12 outfield assists) in return is a nice haul. My head always starts spinning when we start talking about baseball prospects since the reality of the matter is that most of them never turn into anything above average. In the third year of his MLB career after coming over from Cuba, Cespedes is in the peak of his career at age 28 (29 in October, ok sure).

His best season was his rookie year in 2012: .292, 23 homers, 82 RBIs, .356 OBP, .505 SLG, 16 stolen bases and 3.4 WAR). He's a free agent after 2015 so now the question is what Boston will do with him since owner John Henry has publicly stated his disdain for handing out large contracts to players that are 30+. The only thing that worries me about him is his durability; I've noticed this from fantasy baseball (stay with me) but he gets a million little nagging injuries causing him to play 129 games in 2012 and 135 last season. He's only missed six so far for Oakland this season.

Lester said last weekend (after his final Red Sox start) that he'd re-sign here if he was traded but if you believe that, you are one gullible human being. I don't understand how the Red Sox could dust themselves off and suddenly give him a much better deal this winter when he's a free agent since basically half of MLB will be bidding for his services.

Seeing Lester on another team will certainly be strange, the Red Sox are the only professional team that's he ever known after getting called up in 2006. I wouldn't say this about many guys but he truly grew up here in the spotlight: beating Lymphoma and pitching the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2007 and 2013 (getting the clinching win both times). With a career record of 110-63 with 3.64 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 1386 strikeouts, he had become one of the top pitchers (lefty or righty) in MLB. You can make a good case for him being the best playoff pitcher in the game at the moment. He's 6-4 with 2.11 ERA and 1.04 WHIP including 4-1 last fall (2 wins vs. St. Louis) with 1.56 ERA and 0.95 WHIP that earned him the World Series MVP.

There are 54 pointless games left in this miserable season for the Red Sox but at least we can take heart in the fact that Lester being on the A's (66-41)-the top team in MLB-makes the postseason that much more interesting. As for Gomes (.234, 6 homers, 32 RBIs, .329 OBP, .354 SLG), Boston got what they could out of him last season but his tough guy/Captain America routine looked even more silly in 2014 when the team sucked and he played like the worst left fielder in baseball history (somewhere Wily Mo Pena smiles). He hadn't reached the level of that stiff Felix Doubront, who was traded to the Cubs yesterday for the mysterious player to be named later (or a tin of dip and a jock strap?), but I doubt anyone will miss Gomes let alone notice that he's gone.

For the next 3.5 hours, we wait to see if Boston makes some more moves. It sounds like John Lackey (Cardinals or Dodgers) and Andrew Miller (Braves or Dodgers) are also on the next flights out of Logan. Might as well make as many prudent trades that they can to reload for 2015 and beyond.

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