Earlier this week, there was a report from Peter Gammons that the Cardinals were going to meet with free agent Jon Lester the week after Thanksgiving. It turns out that the Cards' interest might have been overstated there, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold has reported that the Cardinals are not meeting with Lester, and that their interest is more along the lines of "due diligence". This is good news for the Red Sox, who stand a better chance of bringing Lester back to Boston if fewer teams are vying for him.
The Cardinals do not have Boston's financial resources, but they play in a passionate market and are arguably the best-run franchise in the entire game. Lester has been very vocal about his desire to sign in an environment that's comfortable for both his career and his family more than just one that's going to make him ridiculously rich instead of super rich: It's why he bothered to meet with the Braves, who will move their ballpark near Lester's Atlanta home in the next couple of years. There was a chance St. Louis fit the bill as well, given they're such a reliable source of winning teams and quality baseball. They might not have the desire to go to the financial lengths it would take to get Lester, however.
Lester has received offers in excess of $120 million, including one from the Cubs that CSNChicago.com reported was at least $135 million and as long as six years.
That's a range the Cardinals have avoided with both pitchers and free agents from outside the organization. Wading into the pursuit of either Lester or Scherzer would push the Cardinals beyond any deal they've done before - all while the club will be measuring starter Lance Lynn for an extension and newcomer outfielder Jason Heyward for one if there's mutual interest in 2015.
Goold goes on to mention that Adam Wainwright received six years and $97.5 million from the Cardinals, but you can think of that as something like the Dustin Pedroia deal with Boston, where a core player who wanted to stick around did his team a huge favor with his pricing. Plus, Wainwright's presence means the Cardinals don't actually need Lester to the degree other teams do, and that would likely lessen any offer they were willing to make to begin with.
With the Cardinals out of the mix as far as being a serious contender goes, per Goold's report, that leaves the Red Sox, Cubs, and Giants as the teams with the best shot of signing him. Someone like the Yankees could always appear out of nowhere, of course, and both Gammons and others have reported that Lester's agents are hoping for that outcome if for no other reason than the more suitors there are, the more money Lester will end up with. As of now, however, these are the three teams with a real chance to give Lester the environment and years he's looking for.