Lester is gone and, for Red Sox fans, it’s probably a good thing


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Jon Lester spurned the Red Sox and signed a long-term deal last week with the Chicago Cubs.

By Nick LaPan, Sports Editor

Six years and $155 million, including a record signing bonus reported to be $30 million. That is how much the Chicago Cubs gave Jon Lester last week to be their ace pitcher.

It was pretty obvious that the Red Sox—despite their entrance into the Lester free agent sweepstakes—were not going to sign him because of the insultingly low bid management gave him in the spring, when John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and Co. offered Lester a four-year deal worth $70 million.

They said it was a “hometown offer,” but let’s be serious here: Jon Lester would never take that, and Lester’s pitching performance alone didn’t somehow earn him an extra $85 million after the season ended.

He went 16-11 this year, with a 2.42 ERA and 220 strikeouts. Good numbers, but not $85 million good. The Red Sox knew he was worth more when they “tried” to sign Lester in spring training and he’s now baseball’s second-highest paid pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

All that said, the Red Sox fans who are complaining about not being able to land Lester need to look at the bigger picture. Lester will be 37 when this new deal is done, and with the Red Sox coming off a 71-91 season, Lester would not have been the difference maker anyway.

Let’s remember that even with Lester in the rotation until the trading deadline—when he was dealt to Oakland—the Sox were a last-place team.

There are other suitable starters—some free agents, others potentially available in a trade—who could fill in for Lester. Johnny Cueto could be a great trade for the Sox, especially because he is younger than Lester and has a very high ceiling.

Another option for the Red Sox would be to pursue Cole Hamels of the Phillies, or try and sign Max Scherzer, even if he is asking for a record-breaking amount of money. The Sox, after all, lobbed a $135 million offer at Lester last week.

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The history between the current Cubs president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, and Lester goes back to when Lester joined the Red Sox organization and Epstein was general manager.

Epstein wanted Lester and got him. Their relationship no doubt contributed to making the deal happen. Terrific. Lester joins a Chicago team with a long history of losing—the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908.

They’ve also been a sub-.500 team for the better part of the past century, especially recently. OK, so part of Lester’s worth comes from his extraordinary ability in the postseason. But what does that do for a struggling team that can’t find its way into the playoffs?

Fans lose sight of Lester’s age. He will be 31 at the beginning of next season, the wrong side of 30, and pitchers who have signed big deals at that age have notoriously failed. Good luck with that, Cubs fans.

The lack of a pitcher of Lester’s caliber is not good for an under-manned Red Sox rotation. They lack a true No. 1 starter and if the opening day pitcher is Clay Buchholz this season may as well be a wash.

But Lester isn’t the answer. The Sox can do better.

If the Cubs fail to make the playoffs in the next two or three years, Lester’s new contract will be for nothing and we can all breathe easier he went to the Windy City and saved the Sox a bundle.