The Red Sox are expecting to wrap up Jon Lester's contract talks before Opening Day according to WEEI's Rob Bradford. What's not known is if said talks will conclude with a long-term extension, or with the understanding that Lester will be heading for free agency in the fall. All that's clear is that neither side wants this saga to be a distraction into April and beyond:
According to the source, none of the parties involved have a desire to continue talks into the 2014 season, which kicks off March 31 in Baltimore. That philosophy, of course, could change as the season unfolds.
Lester's contract situation seemed like it might be easy to resolve when the southpaw told reporters he was open to following the example of Dustin Pedroia by signing a team-friendly deal. And, really, any deal that gets done before the regular season starts has to be considered a case of smooth sailing in the greater scheme of things. If Opening Day comes and goes without an extension, however, it will be a clear sign that something's amiss.
The question will then become whether it was simple reluctance from the Red Sox to go long-term with a pitcher one year removed from a very bad 2012 season, or a sign that Lester's idea of a discount isn't quite the same as Boston's. If it's the former, then solid early returns from Lester could convince the Sox to resume talks before the year ends with a greater willingness to take the risk.
If I had to guess, though, I'd say this deal gets done. It might be a case where they wait to announce it until after the season starts for various financial reasons, but I don't put much stock into the idea that Lester is playing a PR game with his talk of discounts, and I think the Red Sox are more comfortable spending money to keep players around than to bring new ones in. If I'm right on both counts, then it just makes too much sense.