Ben Cherington: Red Sox Hope To Resolve Jon Lester’s Contract Before Opening Day

Jon LesterDavid Ortiz’s contract extension means the Boston Red Sox’s full attention can shift to Jon Lester.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters in Sarasota during a press conference to announce Ortiz’s extension Monday that he hopes to have a resolution regarding Lester’s contract talks — one way or another — before Opening Day.

“I can’t handicap it. We’re still talking. There’s nothing else to report but that,” Cherington said. “I think the spirit of it has continued to be open and sharing information and also focusing in on resolving it one way or another this week before we get into Opening Day (on March 31). But aside from that, I can’t speculate on it.”

Lester is slated to become a free agent after the 2014 season, just as Ortiz was until the designated hitter signed a one-year contract extension (with two option years) with the Red Sox on Sunday. Lester will be one of the best pitchers available on the open market next winter if he tests free agency, but the left-hander has expressed a desire to remain in Boston beyond 2014. The Red Sox, likewise, want to keep the relationship intact.

“We have great respect for Jon. He’s obviously preparing to take the ball on Opening Day, and that’s what he’s focused on mostly,” Cherington said. “No matter what happens this week, we’re going to support him fully, and our preferred position that he remains in a Red Sox uniform past 2014 won’t change, no matter what happens the rest of this week.”

The Red Sox currently have no plans to meet with Lester’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, this week, but the sides have been in contact over the last month, Cherington said. Things certainly could change, especially since the preference clearly is to not have talks linger into the regular season.

“Hopefully we’re all reasonable people, and if it made sense to (continue negotiations into the season), we could reconsider next week,” Cherington said. “But that’s not the thinking right now.”

Lester and the Red Sox officially are on the clock.

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