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Athletics reportedly win trade deadline sweepstakes for Lester

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Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox were at the center of the MLB trade deadline almost from the start. The one sure fire outcome of the trade deadline was that Lester would be traded on July 31, if the Red Sox could find a willing partner. The Oakland Athletics didn't stick out as a potential contender for him, yet the team with baseball's best record decided to take a gamble anyway, according to ESPN's Gordon Edes.

Edes and other sources allege that the Athletics sent two-time Home Run Derby champion and recent All-Star Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox, thereby winning the Lester sweepstakes. Although Oakland already bolstered its rotation by trading for the Chicago Cubs' Jeff Samardzija before the All-Star break, it now seems to have made the biggest move after the break.

Both Samardzija and Lester had languished on disappointing last-place teams who didn't give them any run support. Thus far, landing Samardzija has paid off for Oakland, as he has gone 2-1 in his first five starts there. Nevertheless, the Athletics are still stuck in a dog fight with the Los Angeles Angels for first place and the right to avoid the AL wild card game, despite how these two teams have the best records in baseball.

The Athletics and Angels each hope to succeed the Red Sox as World Series champions, yet Boston's reign really ended long ago. A year after going from last place to world champions, the Red Sox are in last place again and had no choice but to pay the price today for not resigning Lester in the offseason.

Getting Cespedes in return may work, although the biggest thing he has done in his young career is win the Home Run Derby twice. While the Red Sox offense has another bat, their pitching staff is now an even bigger problem with Lester gone. If Boston is to make another worst-to-first run in 2015, it needs a new ace in some fashion.

For now, the Red Sox are officially irrelevant for the rest of 2014, while the Athletics try to ride Lester to a long awaited World Series breakthrough. He will still need a long term deal from someone in the offseason -- the kind the Red Sox wouldn't give him -- but now he has two months and a postseason to make his case to Oakland and other future suitors.

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