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I have a basic question that's causing me some confusion. I see discussion of a "CDS spread," defined as the cost of protection. Are these the same as a bid-ask spread? Is there any relation between the two, if not? Thanks.

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Regarding the terminology, there is no relation between CDS spread and bid/ask spread. The term spread in this sense refers to the related difference (spread) of the effective (credit risky) interest rate and the "risk free" rate (also see "credit spread").

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, the CDS quote itself might have a bid-ask spread. For example, a market maker might be offering to sell CDS protection at 165 (ask) but to buy the same protection at only 160 (bid). $\endgroup$ – Dimitri Vulis Jan 20 at 17:32

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