Ben Cherington says Jon Lester contract talks 'just didn't happen enough'

Mike Petraglia
July 31, 2014 - 4:13 pm

When it comes right down to it, Jon Lester was traded Thursday because he and the team just couldn't hammer out a long-term contract to stay in Boston. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington admitted as much at his press conference after the trading deadline passed and Lester was on his way to Oakland. Cherington was asked if Thursday's trade ruled out any chance the Red Sox might still go after him if he hits free agency this winter. "€œHe'€™s an Oakland A right now so I don'€™t think it'€™s right for me to talk about that '€“ other than to say looking back that we certainly had a desire to engage on a contract conversation with him," Cherington said. "That conversation just didn'€™t happen enough for whatever reason. As we got deeper into the season he made it clear that that wasn'€™t something that he wanted to focus on right now and so we honored his desire. And we had conversation with Jon about that, that we respected that position but because of the performance of the team that meant that we both might have to deal with this possibility." "If the team'€™s performance didn'€™t really improve that meant teams were going to start calling on him and it was something we were going to have to deal with. We both knew about that possibility going into this week because we had talked about it. It combination of the team'€™s performance and his desire not to focus on the contract right now, which we respect his reasons for. So what happens '€“ that'€™s not for me to talk about now. He'€™s an Oakland A and he'€™s got a job to do for them. When we get to the offseason we get to the offseason." Cherington did say he had a chance to talk with Lester and Jonny Gomes Thursday morning as they packed up belongings. "€œMy last conversation with him was in the clubhouse," Cherington said. "He came in to clear some stuff out so I got a chance to go down and see him in person today. That was a thank you and an appreciation for everything he'€™s done and a good luck. He'€™s going to a new place and he'€™s going to be pitching in big games down the stretch and he'€™ll have an opportunity to win again. We'€™ll be rooting for him. Prior to that, I'€™ve been trying to keep him abreast the best I can on what'€™s going on. I couldn'€™t do that perfectly but I tried to. We'€™ve had several conversations with him going back two or three weeks now. The last one was today '€“ he and Gomes were in the clubhouse together so I got a chance to see both of them in person before they left." It was clear watching an exhausted and sleep-deprived Cherington Thursday that trading Jon Lester was the single toughest decision of his managerial career. "€œIt is difficult and it catches you at a different moment," Cherington said. "Last week when things started not to go well in the Toronto series and then going into Tampa, I knew that the more the math built against us, the more possibility there was to have to face some of this. Tough decisions with people that have meant a lot to the Red Sox and who I'€™ve known for a long time and have done great things for the organization. "So you starting thinking about that and that'€™s hard and then once you'€™re in the mix this week of phone calls and going back and forth, when you'€™re doing that you get consumed by the work. But even then the little that we did go home or the couple of hours that we weren'€™t in the office, whatever it was, sure, it'€™s hard. You think about it with all these guys and certainly with Jon Lester who I'€™ve known for so long. It'€™s not easy. And it'€™s not easy for him and not easy for anyone. But I think everyone understands too that everyone is trying to make something better. Jon Lester is trying to make something better for himself, we'€™re trying to make something better. I think underneath it all people understand that but going through it is hard."