Before the day was over, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had a big head start on retooling the defending World Series champions for 2015, also sending starter John Lackey to the Cardinals, lefty reliever Andrew Miller to the Orioles and shortstop Stephen Drew to the Yankees.
Athletics GM Billy Beane further strengthened the team with baseball's best record (66-41) by adding to his club's outfield depth with the acquisition of Sam Fuld from the Twins for left-hander Tommy Milone.
But the Tigers grabbed a big share of the spotlight shortly before the Deadline by completing a three-team trade that brought them coveted ace left-hander David Price from the Rays. Tampa Bay has been one of the hottest teams in baseball for the last seven weeks, but it decided to deal Price despite entering Friday only 5 1/2 games behind the second American League Wild Card spot.
Outfielder Austin Jackson goes from Detroit to Seattle, and the Rays end up with lefty Drew Smyly and shortstop prospect Willy Adames from the Tigers, and shortstop Nick Franklin from the Mariners.
Tweeted Price: "Great Chapter of my life just ended. . .ready to start a new one with the Tigers!!
There was plenty of other action as well.
• The D-backs and Brewers worked out a deal allowing Milwaukee to bolster its defense and lineup by acquiring outfielder Gerardo Parra. Headed to Arizona are outfielder Mitch Haniger, rated Milwaukee's No. 8 prospect by MLB.com, and 20-year-old left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda. Parra won National League Gold Glove Awards in 2011 and '13, and his 62 outfield assists since 2009 are tied for second (with two others) in the Majors, trailing only the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista (63).
• Looking for a right-handed bat to help their offense, the Mariners acquired outfielder Chris Denorfia from the Padres in exchange for outfielder Abraham Almonte, who opened the season with the Mariners, and right-handed reliever Stephen Kohlscheen.
• The Nationals, who are in a tight race with the Braves in the NL East, picked up shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and cash from the Indians in exchange for shortstop Zach Walters. The switch-hitting Cabrera is hitting .246, well below his career average. Walters hit .234 for Washington in 40 games over the last two seasons. He batted .300 with 15 homers for Triple-A Syracuse this season.
• The Braves countered by acquiring left-hander James Russell and infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio from the Cubs for catcher Victor Caratini, ranked by MLB.com as the Braves' No. 7 prospect.
• The Marlins were buyers, picking up Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart, infielder Enrique Hernandez and outfielder Austin Wates in return for outfielder Jake Marisnick, infielder Colin Moran, right-hander Francis Martes and a 2105 compensatory Draft pick.
• The Yankees remained active beyond the Drew acquisition, adding another infielder in veteran utility man Martin Prado, who was a key component of the blockbuster that sent Justin Upton from Arizona to the Braves before the 2013 season. To land Prado, the Yankees parted with power-hitting catching prospect Peter O'Brien and a player to be named or cash.
The Red Sox and Athletics, however, had the most fascinating days.
Getting Lester is just the latest all-in move for Oakland, which acquired pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs on July 5 in exchange for righty Dan Straily, prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, and a player to be named.
The A's now have a rotation that includes Lester, Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, and adding Fuld is a nice-in-the-margins move. He was on the club's Opening Day roster, then claimed on waivers by the Twins on April 20. Fuld has batted .358 with a .476 on base percentage in July.
Lester (10-7 with a 2.52 ERA) can be a free agent at the end of the season and would join Max Scherzer and James Shields as the top starters on the market. Lester rejected a four-year, $70 million offer from the Red Sox during Spring Training and has declined to negotiate since. However, he has said on numerous occasions that he would consider re-signing with the club even if traded. The price will be steep, though. Scherzer rejected a six-year, $144 million offer from the Tigers during Spring Training.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, control Cespedes' contract for 2015, the final year of the four-year, $36 million deal he signed with Oakland after defecting from Cuba. While not technically able to become a free agent at the end of next season -- players need six years of service time -- Cespedes has a clause in his deal that states he'll be released unless he re-signs by Oct. 31 or five days after his team's final game next season.
Cespedes is hitting .256 with 17 homers, 67 RBIs and a .767 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Gomes is a right-handed power bat who is also known as a strong clubhouse presence. He played for the Athletics in 2012 and had 18 homers and 47 RBIs in just 279 at-bats, posting an .868 OPS.
For Lackey, Minor Leaguer Corey Littrell and cash, Boston received right-hander Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig from the Cardinals. For Miller, the return was for prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, a left-hander ranked by MLB.com as Baltimore's No. 3 prospect before the deal. For Drew, it was infielder Kelly Johnson, who's currently on the disabled list with a left groin strain.
After trading Jake Peavy to the Giants on July 26, the Red Sox have now dealt three pitchers who started for them when they won the World Series last October. Cherington is banking on bounce-back years next season for Craig (.315 with an .830 OPS in 2013; .237/.638 this year) and Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA last season; 2-2, 4.37 ERA in seven starts this year).
Lackey (11-7 with a 3.60 ERA) receives $500,000 for being traded. He has a conditional club option for 2015.
Miller is a huge addition for first-place Baltimore. The 29-year-old has appeared in 50 games this season. He has a 2.34 ERA with 69 strikeouts and just 25 hits allowed in 42 1/3 innings.