Josh Beckett, Red Sox talking contract

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox and pitcher Josh Beckett will spend the remainder of spring training trying to come to an agreement on a contract extension, according to a source close to the situation.

But Beckett's strong preference, according to the source, is to have talks finalized before Opening Day as he is reluctant to negotiate during the season for fear of the issue becoming a distraction in the clubhouse or on the field.

Dialogue between the sides has brought "some reason for optimism," the source said. At this point there are no major philosophical differences and talks are ongoing.

"It's important to Josh, and he's made it clear he wants to work on this during spring training but if the sides can't find something that works, the sides will agree to put it on the back burner," said the source, who added that Beckett has handled the situation "remarkably well."

Beckett, 29, will be paid $12 million this season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with Boston in 2006. Earlier this spring, Beckett declined to answer questions about where things stood with a potential extension.

"That stuff is going to work itself out,'' Beckett said. "I don't really have anything to say about contracts today or any time during spring training. And after that I don't want to let that be the focus of what I'm trying to do.''

In terms of what Beckett can expect to make, one benchmark surely in play is the five-year, $82.5 million contract John Lackey signed with the Red Sox in the offseason. Statistically speaking, Beckett and Lackey, 31, have comparable numbers are close in age.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein reached out to Beckett almost immediately after the Sox signed Lackey.

"I don't think that he would have contacted me if he didn't have some good intentions there," Beckett said late last month.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.