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Richard Justice

Fearless Beane shows he's all-in with Lester trade

A's general manager puts his club in best position to win World Series this year

Fearless Beane shows he's all-in with Lester trade

Here's the thing you need to understand about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane: He simply does not care about next season. Or the one after that.

That's the beauty of the man. That's the genius of him. Want to second guess him? Hey, have at it.

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He simply does not care what you or I think. Beane has been doing this long enough that he trusts his instincts.

He's fearless in that way. Beane does not play to the media or the peanut gallery. He's not after approval points.

Here's what he did this morning in swapping Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.

He pushed his cards onto the table for 2014. He didn't stop there. He threw in his wristwatch, shoelaces, car keys and Taco Bell card.

Rotating the rotation
Since the beginning of the season, the A's have completely revamped their starting five.
  Opening Day July 31
1. Sonny Gray *Jon Lester
2. Scott Kazmir *Jeff Samardzija
3. Jesse Chavez Sonny Gray
4. Dan Straily Scott Kazmir
5. Tommy Milone *Jason Hammel
*- Acquired via trade

All that matters is now. He's nutty in that way, singularly focused. That's what Beane wants his players to know. And his manager. And all the people who care about the A's.

He has long said that there aren't that many times a general manager can look at his club and see a potential champion.

"When you do, you go for it," Beane has said.

And so, he's all in.

Are there risks? Oh, please.

Every trade has risks. Big trades. Small trades. Beane took a risk when he acquired Johnny Damon. And Dan Haren. And Jermaine Dye. And Josh Reddick.

Some work. Some don't. In the end, the A's could be headed for another October showdown with the Tigers.

Nothing is guaranteed.

At least, though, Beane has exhausted his resources in putting his team in the best position to win.

Isn't this great fun? Don't you wish they were all like that? If you're a fan of the A's, you're getting the message.

Some of us thought Beane might be finished when he made one bombshell deal, acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel 26 days ago.

He surrendered infielder Addison Russell, one of the very best players in Minor League Baseball.

Five years from now, Russell could be a National League All-Star and one of the guys leading the Cubs' renaissance.

Good for him.

Beane goes into this thing knowing there's just such a risk.

With this trade -- this deal that made you stop and go, "Wait, what?" -- Beane has given his club a monstrous October rotation.

Lester is a proven October player, a guy comfortable when the lights are brightest and the stakes highest.

In 13 postseason games (11 starts) for the Red Sox, Lester has a dazzling 2.11 ERA. In three World Series starts, he's 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA.

Lester pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings when the Red Sox wrapped up Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

Last fall, Lester got the ball in Games 1 and 5, allowing one earned run in 15 1/3 innings and getting a pair of victories.

He's a consummate pro, a taciturn man with a relentless work ethic and a deep, deep drive to succeed.

Lester did everything right during nine seasons with the Red Sox. He said all the right things, was a great teammate and a nearly perfectly representative of the franchise.

Beane also brought Gomes back to his club. Remember him? He's one of the more popular players the A's have ever had, at least inside the clubhouse.

Gomes seems likely to form some kind of left-field platoon with Sam Fuld, who was acquired from the Twins, at least for now.

But Gomes brings something else.

He was in the middle of everything when the A's returned to the postseason in 2012, and as one of his teammates at the time, Seth Smith, said, "I never really understood leadership in baseball until I saw him around our young guys."

Oakland's clubhouse, this clubhouse with Josh Donaldson and Coco Crisp and the others, is plenty good now. It's better with Gomes.

Now for the downside: The Red Sox weren't going to trade Lester unless they acquired a power bat.

You can see the shape of their 2015 club coming into focus except for power. If the Red Sox were going to deal a player who meant so much to their franchise, they were going to get a presence for the middle of their lineup.

Cespedes is that. He could be headed for 30 homers and 40 doubles this season. That right-handed swing will play well at Fenway.

Cespedes is 28 years old and could still get better. He's also another season away from free agency, while Lester will almost certainly be gone from Oakland after this season.

If things worked out just right, the Red Sox could have both Lester and Cespedes on their Opening Day roster next season.

You know what Beane would say to that?

"Congratulations."

This trade isn't about that. This trade is about now. This trade is about baseball's best general manager working his magic. Again.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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