The Red Sox are willing to offer free agent Jon Lester 'at least' $130 million according to CBS' Jon Heyman, who also says that there's enough interest in the lefty ace that his price tag could rise as high as $150 million.
So far the only report we've heard on Boston's offer is that it fell in the $110-to-$120 million range. But that offer was never likely to be the Red Sox' final crack, with Heyman's $130 million floor sounding much more in-line with reality.
Whether that's going to be enough to get the job done is unclear. Heyman says that the Cubs' offer was for $138 million over six years, which is in line with the "north of $135 million" we'd heard before. It's hard to imagine that the Red Sox would let the $8 million between that and the aforementioned $130 million mark get in their way--and it's always possible Lester simply favors a return to Boston over what is, in the scheme of things, not that much money--but if the Cubs respond by going higher, the Sox will call it quits eventually.
There's also the Giants to consider. Lester was scheduled to meet with San Francisco today, and with the Red Sox having taken Pablo Sandoval from them, they have some room in their budget to work with. Heyman also notes that Lester is close to Giants pitcher Tim Hudson, and David Ortiz has already shown us this offseason that personal connections can play a big part in free agency decisions.
Even Atlanta is hanging around the peripheries, though they're not seen as serious players unless Lester is actively hoping to join them given that he currently lives there.
Then there are the two other, unspecified teams Lester still has to meet with. And if none of them have actually offered Lester that six-year, $150 million deal that Heyman speculates is possible, well, it's easy to see how that much interest could push his market that high.
Are the Red Sox willing to go that high? $130 million and $150 million are not all that far apart when split over six years, and we don't actually know what the Red Sox are considering their ceiling at this point, so it might be even closer than that. Still, if we stretch this logic out far enough, the Red Sox will be offering up $40 million a year before all is said and done, so obviously there has to be a line they won't cross.
Even with more teams left to meet, Lester is still expected to make his decision by the end of the week. But for all that the end is drawing near, it still seems like anyone's game.