The deal ended a brief stay in Pittsburgh for Rhodes, a 35-year-old reliever who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics as part of the Jason Kendall trade in November.
"His salary was pretty significant for the role we saw him in for the near future," Pirates GM Dave Littlefield said.
Rhodes spent the 2004 season as a closer and a setup man for the A's, and will set up for Bob Wickman with the Indians. He was 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA and nine saves this year, and has two years remaining on a three-year deal.
"Arthur Rhodes is one of the top guys out of the bullpen the last couple of years," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "I definitely feel like we're addressing a few of our needs and maybe even opening ourselves up for some flexibility."
In return, the Pirates will plug Lawton, a 33-year-old outfielder, into their plans for the 2005 season. Lawton was a disappointment in Cleveland after jumping from the New York Mets for a long-term contract, plagued by injury through his three seasons as an Indian.
But Lawton rebounded this year, hitting .277 with 20 homers and 70 RBI for the Tribe after posting batting averages of .236 and .249 in his first two years with Cleveland. He especially excelled as a leadoff man, though as a free swinger he didn't fit the prototype for one.
"I'm telling you, it was embarrassing," Lawton told Scout.com earlier this year. "It got to the point where I was wondering if I could still play this game at the level I did before."
The deal, which exchanged cash between the clubs, is expected to give Cleveland some additional flexibility to address offseason needs. The team has already made a three-year offer to free agent starter Matt Clement.
"This is going to give us more options," Wedge said.