'Substantive' talks on Beckett deal

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There have been "substantive discussions" between the Red Sox and pitcher Josh Beckett regarding a contract extension, with both sides aiming toward completing a deal before the start of the regular season, according to a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

"There is time before the end of spring training to do a deal, and he's the kind of guy that doesn't let this get in the way of [his preparation for the season]," the source said.

Beckett is in the last year of a three-year, $30 million deal. The benchmark in negotiations would seem to be the five-year, $82.5 million deal the Red Sox gave to free agent John Lackey this winter.

Beckett turns 30 on May 15. Lackey is 31 and turns 32 on Oct. 23. The health of Beckett's arm is clearly a factor in discussions.

A source close to the situation told ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald on Tuesday that Beckett's strong preference is to have talks finalized before Opening Day as he is reluctant to negotiate during the season.

"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 said that dialogue between the sides has brought "some reason for optimism."

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.''

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald was used in this report.