PHOENIX — Theo Epstein’s moment of truth in Chicago finally has arrived, four years after he blew away the baseball world in Boston with the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez and signing of Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal.

Those moves didn’t work out so well, and his replacement eventually dumped the two mega-contracts on the Dodgers after Epstein fled for the Cubs.

Now the Cubs are in spending mode for the first time since 2008, and if Jon Lester, Russell Martin and a couple of other high-priced free agents agree to Epstein’s sales pitch, fans will rejoice and begin planning for October.

The Lester sweepstakes is the most intriguing, and not just because the Cubs’ president is facing off against his old pal, Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington. Lester reportedly will begin meeting with teams this weekend, starting with the Red Sox. He’s scheduled to meet with the Cubs next week in Chicago.

The consensus at the general managers’ meetings was Lester will wind up back in Boston, so Epstein may have to pull one out of his hat.

Asked Wednesday at the meetings what he learned from the regrettable Crawford signing, Epstein replied: “Something I pull out of that and other lessons is be patient, see the big picture, don’t see a need in a player as a be-all, end-all. Look broader. Be more creative. Look at multiple offseasons. Don’t force a fit if it’s not there. That’s something we constantly remind ourselves.”

There’s no guarantee the Cubs’ offseason will go according to script, and until the deals are done it’s anyone’s guess how this will turn out.

Epstein said the Cubs “are not going to force ourselves to act this winter if the opportunity is not there,” which suggests they won’t spend crazy money to get their targets.

Epstein already has two rings at 40, so he doesn’t have to worry about his reputation being sullied if he doesn’t pull it off with the Cubs. He’s on bonus points in his professional life, like a lot of people who get to the top at a young age.

But this is a quest for baseball immortality – crafting the end of the greatest drought in sports history – so Epstein figures to use every resource available to get it done.

Asked Wednesday if the Cubs would spend some money this winter, the agent Scott Boras launched into a soliloquy about a flawed system in which teams choose to avoid free agency by building through the draft instead to doing it in unison. He called it the “shadow approach,” where teams aren’t competitive and “tank a season” in August and September for next year’s draft.

Five minutes later, Boras was asked again.

“Certainly they’ve made the statement,” he said. ” ‘We’re going to win a division’ is what I heard. And I know a guy that has 42 reasons why he can help you do that.”

Boras was referring to a Cubs prospect, Kris Bryant, who actually hit 43 home runs while earning minor league player of the year honors. Coincidentally, Bryant is Boras’ client.

So once again, will the Cubs spend?

Boras quickly calculated the Cubs are worth around $2 billion.

“That is a reason to invest in your resource, because you’re sitting on something that has made you 200 or 300 times your investment,” he said. “So that, in and of itself, is a reason for ownership to look at this asset as it has taken positive steps.

“If any fan base in Chicago deserves a now and not a tomorrow, I’d say it’s the Chicago Cubs, and they said they’re going to do it.”

Of course, Boras also said he would like all the World Series games played at a neutral site picked well in advance like the Super Bowl. So Cubs fans who have spent their whole lives dreaming of a World Series at Wrigley Field may have to watch their home games played somewhere like Miami?

Boras talked about all the children and parents who never have seen a World Series and could plan a year in advance, and the need for the media and corporate sponsors to know the site.

“If we continue to do this on a regional scale, we’re going to lose something that baseball deserves, and what it deserves is world attention,” he said. “There is a sacrifice of two, three or four (home) games for a team, but the betterment it brings to baseball on the whole far exceeds the detriment.”

If the Cubs make a World Series, you can bet the world will pay attention.

But first Epstein has to get them there.