ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester said Friday night that he would not be surprised if the team elected to trade him before Thursday's deadline, but said he still would be open to re-signing in Boston as a free agent.
"Yeah, why not?'' Lester said when the trade-then-sign scenario was proposed to him after Friday's 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. "I mean, this is what I know, this is what I love. Like I've said many times, this is where I want to be. If they trade me, I completely understand.
"Like I said, no hard feelings. I know what they have to do for their organization. If that involves me, so be it. If it doesn't, I'll keep running out there every five days, pitching, and like I said, hopefully November we'll get something done.''
Lester, pitching against the Rays' David Price in a matchup of the American League's top lefties Friday, left after six innings with a 3-2 lead, having thrown 110 pitches. He allowed six hits and two runs -- both coming on a Desmond Jennings home run in the fifth -- walked one and struck out seven.
Price, however, emerged the victor when the Rays scored four runs in the seventh off Red Sox relievers Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa, inflicting most of their damage on the Japanese right-hander. Lester, who is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA, came away with just his fourth no-decision in 21 starts.
Scouts from at least 17 teams were in attendance Friday night, as both Price and Lester have been mentioned as possible trade targets. Many other Red Sox players ( Jake Peavy, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Miller, Felix Doubront, Craig Breslow, Burke Badenhop, Tazawa and even Koji Uehara) also have been the subject of trade talk with the defending World Series champions dropping out of playoff contention.
Until recently, the focus with Lester had been on whether the Red Sox intended to re-sign him before he became a free agent at the end of the season. The story by now is a familiar one: Talks broke off in spring training after the Red Sox made a four-year, $70 million offer perceived as far below market value by Lester and his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson.
At that time, Lester said he preferred to delay any further negotiations until after the season. According to sources, the Red Sox made overtures to Lester and his agents around the All-Star break but no offer materialized, Lester maintained his no-talks stance, and earlier this week, owner John W. Henry and CEO Larry Lucchino both came out publicly reiterating that they were respecting the lefty's wishes not to talk further at this time.
What went unsaid, of course, is the likelihood that the Red Sox did not press the issue because they were unprepared to make an offer more commensurate with the going rate for top-of-the-rotation pitchers, such as the six-year, $144 million extension signed by Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels in July 2012. Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer, who like Lester is eligible for free agency after the season, rejected those terms when offered them by Detroit this spring.