Josh Beckett, the team's ace the past three seasons, will pitch Game 2. Clay Buchholz will draw the Game 3 assignment. For now, Francona will hold off on announcing a fourth starter.
Why Lester over Beckett?
"What it really came down to is the fact that when you look at how our rotation was set up -- and Beckett knows we feel this way, because for us to get where we want to go, we're going to have to lean on both of them -- to flip-flop then around would have meant one guy was on normal rest and another guy was on 10 [days]," Francona said following the Sox's 12-7 victory vs. the Indians.
Lester (15-8, 3.41 ERA) made his last regular-season start on Thursday. Beckett (17-6, 3.86 ERA) last took the mound on Saturday. Game 1 at Anaheim will most likely be this Thursday, but possibly on Wednesday.
Though Lester had a better second half (7-2, 2.82 ERA) than Beckett (6-3, 4.53 ERA), that wasn't the sole purpose behind the move.
If the Red Sox were to find themselves down, 2-1, in the best-of-five series, the club feels that Lester would be better equipped to come back on short rest to pitch Game 4.
Because of the off-day between Games 4 and 5, the Red Sox also have the option of either pitching Lester on five days of rest for a winner-take-all Game 5 or using Beckett on four days' rest.
Daisuke Matsuzaka also could draw a Game 4 start.
"We think Lester is situated where he comes back on short rest, and that would have Beckett, if there's a Game 5, on regular rest," Francona said. "There are a lot of options that are open to us that we're interested in exploring, but that's where we're at, because we don't even know when we're starting yet."
Either way, the Red Sox are excited about having two horses to ride into October.
"The fact that they feel good and are healthy, I think we're in the position we want to be in," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I feel like if a team outplays us with our best guys on the mound, then they deserve it. But I definitely like our chances."
"It's unbelievable -- two aces and Clay is an ace in the making," said Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard. "We've got three guys who are very confident. Dice-K has been lights out lately. We've got confidence in all those guys, and the two at the top are special. If we can win those first two games, I like our chances the rest of the way."
As always, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek thinks his team will go as far as the big guns at the top of the rotation take them.
"We have two horses at the front," Varitek said. "That bodes well."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.