Yes I know Sox fans are upset, heartbroken, depressed, and maybe a bit melodramatic right now. They have grown to love Jon Lester, and he has done everything on and off the field to demonstrate his love for the team, the organization, the community, and most importantly the fans of Red Sox Nation. People cried when he beat cancer. People cried when he pitched a no-hitter. People cried when he led the team to last year's World Series title. And people will cry today when he leaves town, maybe for two months but maybe for good. It won't look right seeing him in any other uniform but in white or blue or red or gray or even that St. Patrick's Day Spring Training jersey.
When Ben Cherington talks to the media tonight, fans are undoubtedly going to be upset with him. Lester was their guy, and it seemed like the team blew their chances at signing him before the season started with a low-ball contract offer in the spring. They'll make the comment that the team has zero pitching next season especially if they have traded away John Lackey by the deadline. And they are absolutely right. But when trading Lester became a reality, all the rumored deals had him leaving for more prospects, not for an established power bat.
Yoenis Cespedes is part of a dying breed in baseball. He is a true power threat, someone who might strike out three times in a game but launch a ball on his fourth at-bat that will break car windows at Fenway. Anyone that questions what Cespedes can do with a baseball can just cue up the Home Run Derby from last season.
The Red Sox have no one in their outfield that is capable of hitting for power. They have the worst hitting outfield in the majors, with Brock Holt being the only guy holding up what would be a historically terrible outfield (when he's not playing every infield position). Jackie Bradley has looked better after changing his batting stance, Shane Victorino has been pretty solid since returning from a season-long leg injury, and Daniel Nava has turned things around after an abysmal start and minor league demotion. But those three guys will never hit more than 10 home runs in a season, and with the rest of the team not named David Ortiz lacking power this season, the Red Sox went from a team consistently at the top of offensive categories to at the bottom of every statistic this season. With no power source in their system and a lack of big bats available in free agency, the Sox would either have to deal off some pieces for a bat or change their offensive philosophy on the fly to be able to score enough runs to compete both now and in the future.
That's why this trade makes so much sense for Boston. The Sox got to keep their prospects (maybe for a big deal in the offseason for pitching) while adding a major league bat with a freakish arm in the outfield. They fill the hole in left field that has been filled by Nava and Jonny Gomes, with Cespedes being a huge upgrade both offensively and defensively (let Oakland have fun with Gomes playing left field). They have Cespedes under contract for next season at a fraction of what he would go for in the open market, with the potential to sign him to an extension to become the heir apparent to David Ortiz in the middle of their lineup. Normally for a huge power bat a team would have to give up a lot more than a starting pitcher for a potential two-month rental and a guy that only plays when there is a left-handed starter on the mound and is below average at best defensively.
The trade makes total sense for Oakland because they are now the clear favorites for the World Series. Their starting rotation prior to this trade was one of the best in the majors, with the team already making a huge deal to bring in two top starting pitchers in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Add those two to their young stud Sonny Gray and a resurgent Scott Kazmir and they had a terrific rotation. The only thing that their pitchers lacked was playoff experience. Adding Lester makes up for that and then some. Lester is one of the best playoff pitchers of all-time, and he would have been the MVP of last season's playoffs if it wasn't for Ortiz having a batting average around .700. In a seven-game series, Oakland can now throw Lester, Gray, Kazmir, and Samardzija. Clearly GM Billy Beane thought that he could make up for Cespedes' hitting with Lester's pitching, while still having the pieces to make other trades to supplement their offense as well. The A's are going for broke this season, and acquiring a top-tier arm may put them over the top in their quest for a title.
Normally you have to wait months or years to see who won a blockbuster trade such as Lester for Cespedes. Looks to me like both teams won this deal.