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Jon Lester’s officially a Cub, and it’s time to move on

Even though Jon Lester now plays in Chicago, he said, “Obviously my heart will always be in Boston.”Paul Beaty/AP

CHICAGO — None of it really matters now anyway.

Who done who wrong? What mistakes were made on either side of the Jon Lester/Red Sox negotiations? Lester finally put it the only way he could Monday — after all the talking, the private visits, and the offers, the Chicago Cubs were the team he and his wife chose.

The Cubs made the best financial offer — $155 million over six years, with a record $30 million signing bonus. Maybe Lester's decision was as simple as that.

The Red Sox blew it with their initial four-year, $70 million offer, but in the end, Lester said, that didn't matter. Lester said the Red Sox' policy was not to negotiate during the season, and that's what he followed.


The Red Sox say they tried to negotiate and Lester wouldn't do it.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Both sides have to move on. And at the pitcher's introductory news conference at the trendy Italian restaurant Spiaggia on North Michigan Avenue, Lester addressed all of the topics.

He was especially appreciative of the final visit to his Atlanta-area home paid by John Henry and wife Linda.

There was no "Moneyball" scene in which Henry slips a piece of paper to Billy Beane with his offer to become Red Sox general manager.

"No," laughed Lester. "There wasn't that. But I'm glad there wasn't. No, I think it would have taken away from the meeting. No money. Just pure conversation. Besides, what he said toward the end of the meeting . . . It will always be near and dear to my heart. I think it took a lot for him to say the things he wanted to say and I'll always remember and cherish that meeting."

Lester called the meeting "very humbling."

He said the Henrys "sat very casually around the living room and we talked. And that meant a lot to me. I know it meant a lot to my wife for them to do that. That added one more thing that made it much more difficult for us.


"He said, 'no matter what your decision is, we're happy for you and you'll always be a Red Sox.' That meant a lot to me and my family that he did that."

Lester said if the Red Sox hadn't traded him in July, it would have been harder for him to leave for Chicago because "I broke that barrier of what it's like to play for another team."

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington had hoped Lester would want to come back to continue the legacy of winning championships. Lester said "the legacy got broken up a little when I went to Oakland. And I understand what he was saying about coming back and finishing it [in Boston]."

Lester acknowledged that having the chance to help break the Cubs' century-plus title drought appealed to him. He watched the Red Sox revel in that glory in 2004, and he would like to be a part of that in Chicago.

"It was very difficult," Lester said of his decision. "Obviously my heart will always be in Boston. I have a lot of great memories there and got to meet a lot of great people, which made the decision very difficult. But in the end, we felt like this was going to be a new and exciting chapter for us, something we wanted to try and conquer. That outweighed the Boston decision."


Lester's toughest phone call?

"Probably to [Dustin] Pedroia. I'd say that was the hardest," he said. "I wanted to call the guys that meant the most to me while I was there. And that's what makes Pedey so great. He'll call you one minute and cuss you out about coming back and you call him a few hours later and you're shedding tears with him. Those guys I'll love and consider my brothers until I'm dead. That was most difficult.

"Second was Ben. Every team that came over to the house and made an offer and spent the time got a phone call from me. I wanted to make sure they heard a thank you from me."

Regarding the Red Sox' low offer last spring, Lester said, "We're all grown men. I understand the business side of baseball. I know what they were doing and trying to do. If you let feelings get in the way of this, you're making a decision for the wrong reason.

"If I'm making a decision based on an offer they made in spring training, I'm setting myself up for failure."

But he added, "I'm hardheaded. There was a lot of other factors that had nothing to do with the front office. We sat down and did pros and cons. This just seemed where the pros outweighed the cons."

Lester said when the Red Sox first visited his home in November, "We let bygones be bygones once they stepped into my house. I said, whatever happened during the season, we're not looking at that. We're looking at now. I think that was a relief for them.


"About the in-season stuff, we had a lot of great conversations. I got the feeling that once spring training ended, they didn't negotiate. I'm pretty hardheaded, so once I'm told that, I try to abide by what people say.

"Ben and I had a lot of great conversations. In the end, we just felt it would be an added distraction. It would have added more in a hard season as it was. When you look back and things didn't work, you can always look back and see what you did and what you didn't do.

"What you guys [media] got are bits and pieces of the conversation. Everything gets focused around their first offer, but by no means was that an ending point of conversation. We continued to have conversation. I spoke to Ben, I spoke to John, even after that offer.

"The effort was there but we didn't make any headway before Opening Day. I didn't leave it to [agents] Seth or Sam [Levinson] and I tried to take care of things. Things are getting blown out because of second-guessing. It puts everybody in an unfair position."

So now he gets to break the curses of billy goats and black cats, much as his new boss, Theo Epstein, helped break the curse of what Lester called "dead Babe Ruths" in Boston.


Maybe it was the money.

Maybe it was the goats.

But Lester's a Cub. And everyone needs to get over it.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.