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Jon Lester contract talks tabled

Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino confirmed Thursday morning that the team and ace Jon Lester have agreed to table contract negotiations until after the season.

"It's done in part out of respect for Jon Lester and his desire to postpone this until after the season," Lucchino said in an interview with Boston sports radio station WEEI. "He's on an extraordinary roll. His last five or six games, his ERA is I don't know, 0.90 or something like that.

"He's leading this team, leading the rotation, and his very strong preference ... was not to have his family and himself distracted and focused on something other than pitching and winning baseball games."

Red Sox owner John Henry made a similar proclamation Wednesday night in an email to the Boston Herald.

"I'm not going to discuss Jon's situation out of respect for both Jon and [general manager] Ben [Cherington] other than to say that both sides have put further discussion off until after the season," Henry wrote. "It's clear that both Jon and our organization would like to see Jon back next year if possible."

Lester told the Boston Globe on Thursday that the postponement of the contract talks won't impact his desire to stay with the Red Sox -- even for a relative discount.

"Doesn't mean anything," Lester said told the Globe. "There's been plenty of guys who have taken less to come back. Mikey Lowell had more years and money with the Phillies, and he came back. It's not the end-all for everybody. I've expressed to them I want to be here."

The Red Sox and Lester had negotiated during spring training, and the two sides spoke on at least a few occasions during the season. But apparently there will be no deal struck between now and the end of the regular season. If the sides do not come to terms before November, Lester will become one of the most coveted free agents in baseball.

Just before the All-Star break, a major league source told ESPNBoston.com that the Red Sox were having "conversations" that could lead to another offer for Lester, but it is unclear whether they took a serious run at him.

The club's offer to Lester in spring training was in the neighborhood of four years and $70 million, far lower than what he could command on the open market and apparently below what Lester was looking for even when factoring in his willingness to take a discount to stay in Boston, a desire he said in January.

All along, Lester has added a caveat to his preference that the Red Sox not reopen talks until after the season. He said it last month in New York after he outdueled Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka.

"If they make an offer that's right there [at market value], yeah, then maybe something can get done," Lester said last month.

Lester, 30 is having the best season of his career. He is 10-7 with a 2.50 ERA and has given up just one earned run in his past 23 innings.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes was used in this report.

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