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Could Russell Martin cost the Red Sox Jon Lester?

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Russell Martin and Jon Lester don't have much in common. So why does Buster Olney say the former's signing with Toronto could keep the latter from signing in Boston.

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When it comes to six degrees of separation, Jon Lester and Russell Martin are not so far apart as, say, Ken Ryan and Brandon Workman, but when Russell Martin signed on with the Blue Jays earlier this week, Red Sox fans weren't exactly trying to figure out what it meant for the lefty ace's market.

Well, if you believe Buster Olney, it turns out it could actually mean quite a lot, mostly because of what it meant for the Chicago Cubs' offseason. It's part of a lengthy Insider piece over on ESPN.com, but here's the gist of the Martin/Lester bit:

  • The Cubs wanted Russell Martin
  • The Cubs want Jon Lester
  • Having missed out on Russell Martin, the Cubs now have a lot of money, and one premier target to focus on.
  • The Cubs have shown their willingness to spend in the realm that would be required to get Lester, bidding $140 million for Masahiro Tanaka.

This is enough for "some rival evaluators" to predict that he will end up in Chicago come the end of the day and, well, it's hard to dismiss the possibility.

It's hard not to give the advantage to the Red Sox right out of the gate. Jon Lester has said before that where he really wants to be is Boston, and his only real connection to Chicago that I can see is Theo Epstein. One has to imagine that the Cubs don't simply have to outbid the Red Sox, but do so by a decent amount to get Lester. That's not to say Lester will give the Sox a home team discount so much as the Cubs probably won't just be able to pip the Red Sox by adding an extra million in average annual value until Boston caves.

That being said, Red Sox fans should know that Theo Epstein is willing to spend to get his man, or at least was when he was here in Boston, at times to a fault. It's hard to say how exactly he views the 2011 debacle. Ben Cherington has generally taken it as a lesson in the pitfalls of overspending, but it's possible Epstein simply views that risk as the nature of modern day baseball. The Cubs haven't really been in much of a position to act on this scale since Epstein took over, at least until now.

It also has to be asked: at what point does Max Scherzer enter the equation? If the Cubs are really willing to put their full war chest into signing Lester, does Scherzer simply become the better option? What about for the Red Sox? The distance between the two markets could shrink rapidly, and at some point it could make sense for either team to switch their attentions to the even higher-profile pitcher.

For now it's just speculation. But the competition for Lester certainly seems to be heating up, and any hopes for a quick deal with a home-grown favorite seem unrealistic at this point.