The Cardinals' search committee met with Francona in Cincinnati, where principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. lives, rather than in St. Louis. The club did not officially comment on the situation, but a team source confirmed the interview and said that Francona was the only candidate who interviewed Tuesday.
Two more candidates, expected to be Jose Oquendo and Ryne Sandberg, will interview on Wednesday. That could end the first round of interviews, as no other candidates are known to be scheduled.
The Cardinals are seeking a replacement for Tony La Russa, who retired last week after 16 seasons as St. Louis' manager. Joe McEwing, Chris Maloney and Mike Matheny have already interviewed.
Francona, 52, is one of the game's most accomplished managers. He spent the past eight years at the helm of the Red Sox, winning two World Series among five postseason appearances. Over 12 seasons as a big league manager, he has a 1,029-915 record. He also spent four years managing the Phillies.
He left Boston under trying circumstances, as the Red Sox stumbled in September after holding a healthy lead in the Wild Card race and ultimately missed the playoffs. The Boston Globe ran a report after the regular season ended that detailed a dysfunctional clubhouse and described Francona as "[losing] his ability to prevent some of the lax behavior."
Still, the overall record for Francona is exemplary, as he oversaw the most successful era for the Red Sox franchise in nearly 90 years.
Francona would fit the pattern of the past several Cardinals managerial hires, though none of those were made by the club's current front office. The past three full-time Cardinals managers were La Russa, Joe Torre and Whitey Herzog, all of whom had already won division titles as Major League managers before coming to St. Louis.
That sets Francona apart from the other currently known candidates. Oquendo, in fact, is the only one besides Francona who has worked on a Major League coaching staff.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.