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Red Sox pursuing other pitching options even before Lester chose Cubs

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SAN DIEGO — Even before Jon Lester chose to sign with the Chicago Cubs late Tuesday night, the Boston Red Sox were exploring all their rotation options.

General manager Ben Cherington said the Red Sox were pursuing other free agents — and trade opportunities — to fill out their starting five.

"We need to build a rotation and we need to be in on all sorts of stuff, and we have been in all sorts of stuff," Cherington said several hours before Lester agreed to a $155 million, six-year contract with Chicago. "There's probably 15 to 20 starting pitching scenarios we've talked about and worked on. ... We're going to build a good rotation."

Cherington acknowledged Boston has spoken with former pitcher Justin Masterson, who came up through the Red Sox farm system before being traded in 2009 during his second big league season. The right-hander went 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA for Cleveland and St. Louis this year, when he spent time on the disabled list because of a knee injury.

PHOTO: Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell speaks to reporters during Major League Baseball's winter meetings Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in San Diego. Baseball's winter meetings opened Monday, as players and teams waited for Jon Lester to make a decision and start defining the pitching market. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell speaks to reporters during Major League Baseball's winter meetings Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in San Diego. Baseball's winter meetings opened Monday, as players and teams waited for Jon Lester to make a decision and start defining the pitching market. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

After finishing last in the AL East at 71-91, the Red Sox revamped their lineup by adding free agents Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. They are now focusing on filling two rotation spots.

Lester was their clear first choice. The left-hander has pitched nearly all his nine-year career with Boston, winning two World Series championships with the Red Sox. But he was traded to the A's this summer.

Now, he has chosen to be reunited with Theo Epstein, who was the Red Sox general manager before becoming the Cubs president of baseball operations.

With or without Lester, Cherington thinks results are what matters most.

"I think our fans expect us to deliver on the field and win games," he said. "In order for us to give the best chance, we have to add to the pitching staff. There are all sorts of ways to do that. Of course there's a connection to certain players more than others. But ultimately they care about the people we put on the field."

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