The Boston Red Sox have picked up the 2014 club option in starting pitcher Jon Lester's contract, which will pay him $13 million, reports WEEI's Rob Bradford:
Per source, Red Sox have activated Jon Lester's $13 million option for next season— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) November 1, 2013
The Red Sox confirm the news:
#RedSox today exercised their 2014 contract option on LHP Jon Lester.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) November 1, 2013
After enjoying a solid regular season, Lester made the Red Sox's decision even easier with a dominant postseason run. Lester paced Boston's staff with a 4-1 record and a 1.56 ERA in the playoffs, highlighted by allowing one run in 15.1 innings against the Cardinals in the Fall Classic.
Lester enjoyed a rebound season after struggling through the worst year of his career in 2012. His return to form played a key role in helping Boston earn their third World Series title in 10 years.
It's difficult for a team to make any type of progress when its ace has an ERA near 5.00, which was the case for Lester last season.
The two-time All-Star still hasn't returned to the level he showcased from 2008 through 2011, a stretch where his ERA never finished above 3.50. That said, he's at least flashed that type of form while being far more reliable from start to start.
His improved performance was probably all the Red Sox needed to see before picking up the option.
Lester will be 30 heading into next season, meaning he's still in the midst of his prime. Boston couldn't afford to let a pitcher of his caliber walk out the door without getting anything in return, especially with limited star power elsewhere in the rotation.
Barring a long-term contract extension, the left-hander will enter next season with no shortage of motivation. He'll be pitching for what's likely to be his final big contract and, with plenty of teams seeking rotation help, he could earn one with even just a solid 2014 campaign.
In turn, the Red Sox would benefit from a motivated Lester. The club has shown what it's capable of when he's good, it would be even more dangerous if he's great, as he often was during that aforementioned 2008-11 stretch.
All told, with the option picked up, the Red Sox and Lester can focus on finishing strong in 2013 instead of worrying about what the future holds for 2014.