NEW YORK -- Less than 24 hours after discussing his sterling performance in Friday's 4-2 win over the Yankees, Red Sox ace Jon Lester was back at his locker in the bowels of Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, fielding questions from a crowd of reporters about his contract negotiations with the team.

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that Lester had rejected the Red Sox's most recent offer, a four-year deal for between $70 million and $80 million. Lester said that contract talks would not resume until the end of the season, at which point the two sides have a period to exclusively negotiate before the left-hander enters free agency.

The Red Sox didn't comment on the report.

The timing of the news pushed Lester to center stage as the Red Sox's clubhouse opened for media availability following a 7-4 loss to the Yankees in the third game of the American League East rivals' four-game set.

"I knew one day we'd probably be standing here doing this," Lester said. "It is what it is. It's kind of the nature of the beast of playing in a market like this. It's hard to keep things under wraps, but like I said, when things ended at the beginning of the season, no hard feelings. I think both sides walked away in good places. Like I said, we'll pick it up in the time comes."

It has become commonplace for players to break off contract negotiations once the season begins, fearing the ongoing distraction they may cause in the clubhouse. Lester, a former second-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft now beginning his ninth season in Boston, reaffirmed his desire to stay with the team.

"I think we're always hopeful, absolutely," Lester said. "Like I've said before, I'd like to think what they said is true as well, and I want to be here. They said they want me here, so just at that particular time, things didn't pan out, didn't work out. So when the time comes, we'll sit down again and see where we're at now."

Lester has gotten off to a strong start, posting a 2.57 ERA and a 1.095 WHIP in three starts. He scattered six hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings on Friday night, but he has been the victim of poor run support in the early going.

"He's a big part of our organization," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Obviously he's our No. 1 pitcher. We'd love to have him here."