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Red Sox trade Jon Lester to A's for Yoenis Cespedes; Rays send David Price to Tigers
Ben Cherington looked exhausted, and he wasn't alone.
With all of the wheeling and dealing done on Yawkey Way during Thursday's frenzied countdown to the 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, the Red Sox general manager was the face of that spent energy, a cyclone of activity that spun from Boston to Oakland, from Tampa Bay to Seattle.
By the time a relative calm settled over the baseball world again, the landscape had changed.
Jon Lester, the Red Sox ace and two-time World Series champ, had become a member of a stacked A's rotation, shipped to Oakland along with Jonny Gomes for power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Lester's teammate, John Lackey, had been traded to the Cardinals, with St. Louis sending back outfielder Allen Craig and starting pitcher Joe Kelly.
The Rays sent their own ace, David Price, to Detroit in a shocking three-team deal that could set up one of the greatest ALCS showdowns ever if the A's face the Tigers in October.
As Cherington sat in front of a Fenway Park microphone going through the handful of trades that dismantled the defending champions, it was in stark contrast with the scene nine months earlier, when the Red Sox partied on the field here after earning their third World Series title in a decade.
Now Cherington was the face of the wild swap meet, having gutted his team to help a handful of contenders down the stretch.
"There's nothing celebratory about this," Cherington said. "As far as the return, time will tell. We were happy with what we did. We think it fits with what we were trying to do, which was to focus on getting major-league or near-major-league proven talent. We really wanted to see if we could take advantage of unfortunate circumstances and turn it into something better."
The Red Sox got the ball rolling early by agreeing in principle to the Lester-for-Cespedes trade between 3 and 4 a.m., as best the weary Cherington could recall. He huddled with about 15 of the baseball ops crew, including Sox ownership, in the Fenway offices, where they spent the night. The deal eventually leaked out at about 9:30 a.m., and an A's rotation that already featured Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir and Jason Hammel had added Lester, who has a playoff ERA of 2.11 in 13 games, including 11 starts.
The Lester trade, as stunning as it was, seemed to be only a matter of time. Talks about an extension had dissolved during the course of the season -- Lester had dismissed a four-year, $70-million offer in spring training -- and Cherington refused to let sentimentality interfere with improving the Red Sox for 2015 and beyond. He told Lester that as well.
"I had a conversation with Jon about that," Cherington said. "If the team's performance didn't really improve, that meant teams were going to start calling on him, and it was something we would have to deal with."
Trading Lester to the A's, a small-revenue team unlikely to re-sign him, would seem to give the Red Sox at least a slim chance to get their ace back in the offseason in free agency. But Cherington refused to comment on that possibility.
"That's not for me to talk about now," he said. "He's an Oakland A. When we get to the offseason, we get to the offseason."
The Tigers, already atop the AL Central, apparently had bigger things in mind when they pulled off the three-team trade that put Price in their rotation. Detroit sent centerfielder Austin Jackson to Seattle and pitcher Drew Smyly to Tampa Bay. The Rays also received second baseman Nick Franklin from Seattle and shortstop prospect Willy Adames from Detroit.
The Tigers now have the past three Cy Young winners (Max Scherzer, Price and Justin Verlander) in their rotation.
As the rich get richer, the Rays, who have won 20 of their last 26 games to climb back into the wild-card race, jettisoned one of their franchise players, an ace who still had another year left before free agency.
"Compared to the other possibilities, it was by far the most prudent thing that we could do for the best interests of the franchise," Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "Simply said, standing pat makes it much, much more difficult for us to maintain a compelling, competitive team going forward. That's the reality of a low-revenue club."
heeling and dealing. There were numerous other smaller deals on a busy trade deadline day:
The Nationals acquired infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians for infielder Zach Walters.
The Brewers acquired outfielder Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks for minor-league outfielder Mitch Haniger and lefthander Anthony Banda.
The A's sent lefthander Tommy Milone to the Twins for outfielder Sam Fuld.
The Mariners acquired outfielder Chris Denorfia from the Padres for two minor leaguers, outfielder Abraham Almonte and righthander Stephen Kohlscheen.
The Red Sox traded lefthanded reliever Andrew Miller to the Orioles for minor-league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.
The Braves acquired infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and lefthander James Russell from the Cubs for minor-league third baseman Victor Caratini.
The Astros traded righthander Jarred Cosart and outfielder Enrique Hernandez to the Marlins for minor-league third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jake Marisnick and minor-league righthander Frances Martes.END