The Red Sox had made finding a run-producing outfielder a priority; over the past month, they had scouted Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, as well. But Kemp was still owed $107 million over the next five years, and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, in addition to giving Boston a firm no on his top prospects like outfielder Joc Pederson, made it clear he was not moving Kemp.
Cespedes has 17 home runs this season, three more than Boston's outfielders have combined to hit in 2014. He also possesses one of the game's most powerful throwing arms, which in combination with center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and right-fielder Shane Victorino, should give the Red Sox a shutdown outfield defense.
At 28, the Cuban-born Cespedes is two years younger than Lester (Cespedes turns 29 on Oct. 18) and will remain under contractual control by the Red Sox for at least another year. Though he has less than three years of major league service time, Cespedes can become a free agent after the 2015 season through a clause in his contract that allows him to avoid salary arbitration and hit free agency.
Cespedes has had a rough month of July -- with a slash line of .198/.221/.352/.573 -- and on-base percentages of .294 and .303 the past two seasons, which do not fit the profile of what the Red Sox usually are seeking. But he should combine with Ortiz and Mike Napoli to give the Red Sox a formidable middle-of-the-order presence -- and one who will regularly visit The Wall. Interestingly, 11 of Cespedes' 17 home runs have come in cavernous Oakland Coliseum.
But in dealing Lester, the Red Sox have paid a high price -- a homegrown staff ace who has proven durable and dependable and was enjoying arguably the best season of his career. He leaves Boston with a 110-63 record in parts of nine seasons with the Red Sox, and was 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 2014.
Scratched from a scheduled start Wednesday, Lester was 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA in his last eight starts with the Red Sox, with 54 strikeouts, nine walks and just one home run allowed in 58 2/3 innings.
But the Red Sox decided early on they would not pay the current market value for a premier starting pitcher. Their reported four-year offer in spring training was worth less than half the six-year, $144 million deal Max Scherzer, another impending free agent, turned down from Detroit this spring.
Lester vowed that he would postpone further negotiations and adhered to that pledge, even when Red Sox executives approached his agent, Seth Levinson, and asked to re-open talks.
Because Lester was traded in midseason, any team that signs him this coming offseason will not have to forfeit a draft pick as compensation, which should only increase the market for his services. Even this week, Lester said he would be open to returning to Boston, but there is little reason to believe the Red Sox would pay a premium over what they could have signed him for while he was still in Boston.
In losing Gomes, the Sox are giving up a valuable part-time player who came to symbolize the "Boston Strong" motif adopted by the team in the aftermath of last year's Boston Marathon bombings, posing with biceps flexed on an iconic Sports Illustrated cover last spring.