A quick breakdown of the blockbuster Red Sox-A's deal:
WHY IT WORKS FOR BOSTON: Yoenis Cespedes provides something -- a middle-of-the-order bat -- that the Red Sox are sorely lacking. His OPS-plus of 114 is better than any of the current Sox except David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Brock Holt. He's in his athletic prime at age 28, and has enough raw power that his home-run total may be boosted by the move from the cavernous park in Oakland to hitter-friendly Fenway. A Cespedes-Ortiz-Napoli trio at 3-4-5 may not be the equal of the Ortiz-Manny Ramirez lineups, but it should be better than what the punchless Sox have delivered so far this year. Plus it gets the struggling Dustin Pedroia back into a table-setting, rather than table-clearing role, and enables them to drop a hitter like Holt, Daniel Nava or Shane Victorino down in the order to lengthen it a bit.
THE DOWNSIDES: 1) Cespedes' OBPs have tumbled from the .356 mark he put up as a rookie in 2012; he had a .294 OBP last year and is at .306 this year. 2) The Sox now lack a true No. 1 starter, and will have to find one somewhere before they're ready to contend again.
FINANCIALLY . . . Cespedes' yearly salary is $10.5 million in both 2014 and 2015. But while baseball-reference.com says Cespedes will only be arbitration-eligible, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that his contract has been structured in a way that grants him free agency after next year.
WHAT THE SOX LOSE: A top-of-the-rotation horse in Lester, whose value to the Sox has been told and re-told over the last few weeks. Still, he's eligible for free agency at the end of the year and Oakland certainly doesn't have the financial resources to keep him. Whether or not he comes back to Boston remains to be seen.
They also lose Gomes, whose on- and off-field contributions to the 2013 championship will always be remembered. But since Cespedes is his replacement, his in-game presence won't be missed.
BOTTOM LINE: Getting an actual player in return rather than prospects -- and a player who has a skill the team desperately needs -- will probably make the loss of Lester go down a little easier with the fan base. Should the Red Sox actually re-sign Lester this winter, they'll probably build statues of Ben Cherington around Fenway Park. If not, this is a step in a process that's not nearly finished yet. But even if they opened one hole to plug another, the Sox had no impact bats available to them in their system and they DO have lots and lots of promising young arms. None of them are Jon Lester yet, and they may never reach his level of ability. But the Sox stand a little more well-rounded today than they were yesterday.