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Helton talks are off

Choice of prospects is the deal-breaker

When the Colorado Rockies approached Theo Epstein six weeks ago about a possible deal for Todd Helton, the Red Sox general manager figured he would listen. After all, having Helton would give the Red Sox a drop-dead batting order -- lots of runs -- to go with a drop-dead starting rotation.

Helton is Epstein's type of guy, a tough out who wears down pitchers (.430 career on-base percentage) and a tough player. So Epstein listened and listened. He laid down the ground rules to the Rockies:

take on two big veteran salaries, pay some of Helton's contract, and we'll also give you one or two mid-level prospects.

But when the Rockies asked for more, the deal broke down, and the collapse became official last night. Rockies owner Charles Monfort issued a statement to that effect, saying, "Discussions like these regarding a player of Todd's talent and character are never easy, and it's not surprising we were not able to reach an agreement. Todd has been and will continue to be an important part of our franchise."

Seemingly drained and disappointed at not landing Helton, Epstein gave only a "no comment" in response to the ending of the talks last night.

Helton, who had agreed to waive his no-trade clause to come to Boston, is not expected to be warm and fuzzy about returning to Colorado. While Monfort said there would be no further discussions, one source with knowledge of these talks indicated that it would not be surprising to see them rekindled in spring training.

During the course of negotiations, Monfort revealed that Mike Lowell and Julian Tavarez were to be included in the trade, which leaves the Sox in the position of having to smooth things over with the two veterans.

The Red Sox and Rockies have not always had the best of relationships -- the botched Larry Bigbie deal two years ago created some bad blood -- but things between the teams have improved. Though the Sox were not pleased that Monfort leaked the two names, Epstein agreed that the teams can move forward and engage in talks on other trades in the future.

In the end, the Red Sox and Rockies were far apart on two major issues: how much of Helton's $90.1 million contract the Rockies would be willing to assume , and which prospects the Red Sox were willing to part with.

While numerous reports and sources indicated the Rockies were willing to eat half of Helton's salary, the last amount the Red Sox heard was about $27.5 million, or just more than a quarter of the contract.

Also, the Rockies wanted to choose one or two players from a list of Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Manny Delcarmen, and Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox wouldn't part with any of them. Epstein countered with more of a second-tier prospect list, and that's when the negotiations broke down.

The Red Sox now appear to be done with player transactions for the time being. They could possibly settle with outfielder Wily Mo Peña prior to arbitration, but they are prepared to head to a hearing for the first time in Epstein's tenure.

The Sox brass will hold organizational meetings in Fort Myers, Fla., a week before spring camp opens Feb. 16.

Though they didn't land Helton, Sox owner John Henry said in an e-mail, "We like the way our team is constituted."

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