The Mets also agreed to pay the remainder of Estes' contract -- $1,524,592 -- because Reds ownership won't increase the payroll. Estes, 29, agreed to a $6.2 million, one-year deal in February.
The Reds led the NL Central for 51 days earlier this season, but were overtaken by St. Louis on June 18. They traded for starters Ryan Dempster and Brian Moehler in July, but they've gone a combined 3-5 in 10 starts with an 8.01 ERA.
Texas' Kenny Rogers also vetoed a trade in July, saying he wanted to finish the season with the Rangers.
The Reds' pitching staff has been horrible lately, giving up six or more runs nine times in the past 10 games. A 7-2 loss to Arizona on Thursday night dropped the Reds a season-high 5½ games behind St. Louis.
Cincinnati is in a stretch of 17 straight games against playoff contenders and can't afford to fall any farther back.
"If we can get through August, the schedule should be in our favor the last month," general manager Jim Bowden said.
The Mets decided to trade the left-hander and pay the rest of his salary after five straight losses dropped them nine games behind Los Angeles in the wild card standings.
"We're not in quite as good a situation as we were a couple of weeks ago," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said. "It allowed us to consider a broader avenue of things."
Estes is to start on Saturday against Houston, bumping Jose Rijo back into the bullpen. The Reds put reliever Scott Sullivan on the 15-day disabled list to open a roster spot for Estes.
Estes was 4-9 with a 4.55 ERA for the Mets, who acquired him in a trade with San Francisco last December. His main problem throughout his career has been control -- he averages roughly one walk for every two innings pitched.
"We know about his arm and experience," manager Bob Boone said. "We hope to catch lightning in a bottle. The only problem he's had is control. It's a big 'only."'
The Reds' other two trades for starters have backfired, but Bowden isn't done looking for more candidates if the price is right.
"We haven't gotten the return we've wanted, but both of them pitched extremely well in their last two outings," Bowden said of Moehler and Dempster. "If I can get another starting pitcher tomorrow, I'm going to do it."
The Mets overhauled their roster in the offseason hoping to add some offense, but the club hasn't come close to meeting expectations. They were in third place in the NL East, 20 games behind Atlanta, at the time of the trade.
"I'm disappointed we didn't do better, and I'm disappointed I didn't do better," Estes said.
Estes will be replaced on the Mets' roster by lefty Mike Bacsik, who will be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk and start Friday night against Los Angeles. Bacsik, went 2-0 with a 4.87 ERA in three starts for the Mets earlier this season.
"We'll see what he can do down the stretch," Phillips said. "This gives us a chance to look at him."
New York acquired left-hander Pedro Feliciano and outfielder Elvin Andujar from the Reds.
Feliciano, 25, was 3-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 48 games at Triple-A Louisville and Double-A Chattanooga. He will be a lefty specialist for Triple-A Norfolk.
Andujar was batting .286 with five homers and 20 RBI for Billings of the rookie Pioneer League. Andujar, 21, will report to Class-A Brooklyn.
The Associated Press News Service
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