Jon Lester understands he has a long way to go to be in the same economic stratosphere as the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, but if he gets there it will be good news for everyone but the Red Sox accountants.

“I’m happy for him and I’m happy for baseball,” the Sox’ Opening Day starter said yesterday. “It’s pretty impressive. We’ve got our first $200 million pitcher. I’ve got to pitch a lot better than I did last year to worry about that.”

Last year, you may recall, is what Sox manager John Farrell hopes was Lester’s outlier season. After going 76-34 in his first six years, Lester lost his way. He stumbled to a 9-14 record and finished with a 4.82 ERA.

That still left him 85-48 in 188 games, a .639 winning percentage that is the seventh-highest among active pitchers with at least 100 major league decisions, but after struggling at the end of the 2011 season as well (when he won only once in his final six starts and allowed 19 earned runs), 2012 seemed to leave Lester standing at a crossroads.

At that point it remained an open question which seasons were the outliers and which were not. Yesterday, 24 hours before Lester would be the Opening Day pitcher for the third straight season, both he and Farrell seemed confident they knew the answer to that question, which is one of the most critical the Sox are facing.

Baseball people will tell you spring training numbers mean nothing, yet Lester’s 0.75 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and 20 strikeouts with only eight hits and four walks in 24 spring innings seemed to signal he had regained the form that put him on the cusp of being among the best left-handers in baseball two years ago.

Lester can’t prove that is again the case today, but he knows he can go a long way toward establishing that The Year of Our Discontent is behind the Sox after last season’s abominable 69-93 record.

“It’s all about confidence,” Lester said of his return to a more upright delivery that seemingly has him back on track. “If I’m able to go out and establish that (confidence), we can all feed off that. We’re starting fresh, everybody having zeros. I feel like I’m in a good place mechanically and mentally. I feel like our team is in a good place. Different scenery helps. We’re coming in with a clean slate. We’re starting at zero. It’s a big change.”