PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Looking for an ace to bolster their so-so rotation, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired Cliff Lee on Wednesday from Cleveland, marking the second straight year the Indians traded the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.

The World Series champion Phillies gave Cleveland four minor league prospects for Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco.

“I’m going to miss all these guys here, but it’s an opportunity for me to help a team that’s in first place,” Lee said after the Indians lost to the Los Angeles Angels 9-3 in Anaheim, Calif.

“They’re the defending world champions. So as far as that goes, I’m excited. But right now I’ve got to figure out how to get there and meet up with them and get acclimated to their team,” Lee said.

The NL East-leading Phillies sent Triple-A pitcher Carlos Carrasco, infielder Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson along with Single-A pitcher Jason Knapp to Cleveland.

Last year, Cleveland dealt CC Sabathia, then the reigning Cy Young winner and in the final year of his contract, to the Milwaukee Brewers. Sabathia helped the Brewers into the postseason before signing a $161 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees.

“Losing one Cy Young winner one year and another one the very next year is probably hard for a fan to swallow. But it’s the nature of the game,” Lee said.

Lee turns 31 next month and his contract includes an $8 million club option for next season.

“At the root of this deal was balancing the conviction of our ability to compete in 2010 with the opportunity to impact the team’s construction for years to come,” Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said in a statement.

Philadelphia pursued Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, but shifted its attention to Lee because Toronto’s asking price for the six-time All-Star is high. The Phillies balked at trading top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, who was the 18th overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft.

Philadelphia acquired Lee without giving up Drabek, rookie left-hander J.A. Happ, who was 7-1 going into his start at Arizona, or highly touted minor-league outfielders Michael Taylor and Dominic Brown.

Lee gives the Phillies another top starter to join Cole Hamels. The left-hander is 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 22 starts this season after going 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA last year. Hamels, the MVP of the World Series and NLCS last fall, has been inconsistent this season. He’s 7-5 with a 4.42 ERA, though he pitched well in a victory at Arizona on Tuesday.

The Phillies have a comfortable lead in the division – seven games ahead of second-place Florida going into Wednesday’s games. They’ve sought pitching help since No. 2 starter Brett Myers had hip surgery in June. Jamie Moyer leads the staff with 10 wins, but he is 46 and has a 5.32 ERA.

The addition of Lee means Philadelphia has to drop someone – possibly Rodrigo Lopez — from its starting rotation. Lopez, though, is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in four starts. The Phillies also have Pedro Martinez rehabbing in the minors. The three-time Cy Young Award winner signed a $1 million, one-year contract during the All-Star break.

Francisco, who is batting .250 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs, upgrades Philadelphia’s bench, which has lacked a solid, right-handed hitter.

The Indians have been a disappointment this season and their decision to deal Lee for prospects is another blow for Cleveland fans, who have seen stars like Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Sabathia leave via free agency or trade.

The club had hoped to sign Lee to an extension but talks broke off during spring training. A succession of injuries and dismal relief pitching dropped the Indians out of contention and forced general manager Mark Shapiro to begin rebuilding.

The Indians traded infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa to St. Louis last month, sent reliever Rafael Betancourt to Colorado last week and dealt first baseman Ryan Garko to San Francisco on Monday.

Carrasco may be the closest to joining Cleveland’s roster. The 22-year-old right-hander struggled early this season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but has pitched well recently. He was 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA in 20 starts, and had 112 strikeouts in 114 2-3 innings.

The 18-year-old Knapp was Philadelphia’s second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and possesses an overpowering fastball, with 111 strikeouts in 85 1-3 innings. But he hasn’t pitched since July 11 because of right shoulder soreness.

Marson, 23, was hitting .294 with one homer and 24 RBIs in 63 games at Lehigh Valley. He was 4 for 17 in seven games with the Phillies. Donald, 24, recently returned from knee surgery and was batting .236 with one homer and 16 RBIs in 51 games at Lehigh Valley.

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