The transaction was reported after the teenager's mother asked him how he had gotten the money for his new equipment, Xinhua, the official government news agency, reported.
Five people now face criminal charges, prosecutors in Chenzhou, Hunan province, said. They include Dr. Song Zhongyu, a surgeon at a Yunnan hospital, who allegedly performed the operation.
He Wei, a man who incurred large gambling debts, allegedly tried to become a broker in the illegal organ trade, authorities said. He recruited two assistants who have also been charged along with a hospital official who leased an operating room for the surgery.
The recipient of the kidney allegedly paid 220,000 yuan ($35,000) for the operation. The teenager got $3,500, with the rest split between He, Song and their confederates.
The teenager reportedly now suffers from kidney problems.
China banned organ sales in 2007. But there is a huge imbalance between the number of people needing transplants, estimated at 1.5 million every year, and the supply of donated organs, leaving the country with a thriving black market.