July 31, 2014 at 11:14 AM
The Red Sox and Oakland Athletics have completed a blockbuster trade. Boston will send left-hander Jon Lester (pictured) and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A's in exchange for outfielder Yeonis Cespedes and a 2015 draft pick in the competitive balance Comp B round. The main elements of the trade have been reported by multiple sources, while Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the inclusion of the draft pick.
Cespedes, 28, was originally signed out of Cuba in February 2012 to a four-year, $36 million contract. In two and a half seasons, he has compiled a .262/.318/.470 line and hit 66 home runs. He currently ranks ninth in the American League with 67 runs batted in. Cespedes garnered national attention for winning the home run derby at All-Star weekend in both 2013 and 2014 and for his highlight-reel throws from the outfield. He is tied with new teammate Jackie Bradley, Jr. for the major league lead with 12 assists.
Taken with the Red Sox first pick in the 2002 draft, Lester was the longest tenured member of the organization. He won 110 games in a Red Sox uniform, good for ninth on the team's all-time leaderboard. That total does not include the three World Series games he won, including one as the youngest member of the 2007 rotation and two as the staff ace in 2013.
The former top-ranked player on SoxProspects.com had a steady rise through the system. After solid seasons with Low A Augusta in 2003 and High A Sarasota in 2004, Lester broke through with Portland in 2005, posting a 2.61 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings. That stellar performance got him recognition from the national publications, including being rated the number 22 prospect in the game by Baseball America heading into 2006. He continued his dominance for 11 starts with Pawtucket before getting the call to Boston, making his major league debut against the Rangers at Fenway Park on June 10.
In the midst of a promising rookie season, Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. He underwent an intensive treatments that included chemotherapy, and was in remission and back on the mound the following spring training. After three months of minor league rehab, Lester made his comeback on July 23. The reliable left-hander never again found himself on the disabled list, making 226 starts before being scratched on Wednesday amid swirling trade rumors. Lester made at least 31 starts each season from 2008 to 2013, averaging 205 innings per year.
More than just durable, Lester was often dominant. He finished fourth in the 2010 Cy Young Award voting, winning 19 games and leading the American League with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He was named an All Star in 2009, 2010 and 2014. At the time of the trade, Lester was in the midst of arguably his most dominant season with Boston, sitting fifth in the league with a career-best 2.52 ERA and walking only 2.0 batters per nine innings, his lowest ever mark.
A pending free agent after the 2014 season, Lester and the Red Sox were unable to come to terms on a contract extension. With the team falling out of contention, rumors spread quickly about the team's willingness to trade the ace left-hander rather than risk losing him for only the draft pick compensation in the offseason. The supplemental pick acquired from Oakland is roughly equal in value to the compensation the team would have received for losing Lester.
Photo Credit: Jon Lester by Kelly O'Connor