To fans, John Lackey is the most unpopular player on the Red Sox. There is no second place; that’s how much of a landslide it is.



Lackey is an expensive free agent who didn’t meet expectations, a quick path to getting booed at Fenway Park. His ill-tempered answers and dismissive gestures to the media only made it worse.

Lackey became the surly symbol of all that had gone so wrong for the Red Sox, pitching poorly in the final weeks of the disastrous 2011 season, then playing a starring role in reports of the clubhouse insurrection that cost popular manager Terry Francona his job.

But on Tuesday, during the first extended interview in several years, Lackey said he had no regrets about coming to Boston and vowed to change the narrative.

“I thought this place would be good for me,’’ Lackey said. “I’m a guy who likes competing and showing some emotion and that is what they want. When I’m pitching well, I think it’ll be a good thing. And I’m going to pitch well. This thing isn’t over.”

A different portrait of Lackey emerges when you dig through the thin layer of public perception. Despite three difficult seasons in Boston, the 34-year-old righthander has become a respected figure within the framework of the team.

When rookies get called up, it is Lackey who picks up the check at dinner or buys them a new suit, repaying favors done for him years ago.

Lackey defied the pain in his elbow in 2011, pitching games against his better judgment because there wasn’t anybody else available. A surgeon later told him the bone spur he plucked out of his arm was the largest he had ever seen.

Now Lackey is coming back from surgery that kept him out all of last season.