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Epstein leaves for Cubs

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / October 22, 2011

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Theo Epstein resigned as general manager of the Red Sox last night and on Tuesday will be introduced as the president of baseball operations of the Cubs. The Red Sox will name Ben Cherington as his successor that same day.

The Cubs and Red Sox have not agreed on compensation for Epstein but agreed to move forward with the transition last night, issuing a joint statement saying they had come to terms on a process that would finally settle that issue after nine days of fruitless negotiations.

Now that Epstein has officially left the Red Sox, he and Cherington are free to negotiate the compensation. If no deal is struck by Tuesday, commissioner Bud Selig could step in as a mediator.

In essence, Epstein’s first deal for the Cubs will be for himself.

Because Epstein is resigning with a year remaining on his contract, the Red Sox are entitled to compensation. That has been a sticking point, with the teams having vastly different views on what is appropriate.

The Cubs have wanted to pay cash, while the Sox initially sought righthander Matt Garza or stellar young shortstop Starlin Castro. They also took a shot at asking the Cubs to take on John Lackey and the nearly $46 million remaining on his deal.

The sides are expected to settle on a package of minor league players.

The teams made their announcement with the permission of Major League Baseball, which did not want the news coming out over the weekend and interrupting coverage of the World Series.

The Padres also were on hold. Their GM, Jed Hoyer, has agreed to join Epstein in Chicago, along with San Diego assistant GM Jason McLeod. Hoyer and McLeod were on Epstein’s staff in Boston before leaving in 2009.

Another former Epstein lieutenant, Josh Byrnes, will become the GM in San Diego. He joined the Padres’ front office last year after being fired as GM by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

For the Red Sox, it is the end of a wildly successful era. Epstein was named general manager on Nov. 25, 2002, and helped build a team that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

The Red Sox were in the postseason six times in his nine years and won 95 or more games six times.

During Epstein’s tenure, the Red Sox became a player development powerhouse, drafting and developing such players as Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia.

Epstein traded for 2004 postseason hero Curt Schilling and plucked an obscure slugger named David Ortiz out of free agency in 2003.

There were rough patches along the way. Epstein left the team for nearly three months in 2005 during a power struggle with team president Larry Lucchino.

He also made a series of poor choices on the free agent market, signing J.D. Drew, Edgar Renteria, Matt Clement, Julio Lugo, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Lackey, Mike Cameron, and Bobby Jenks to expensive contracts that did not pan out as hoped.

The Red Sox finished in third place in the American League East the last two seasons, this year suffering a historic September collapse that led to the departure of manager Terry Francona amid reports that players were drinking beer during games and had lost respect for his authority.

Epstein, according to friends, was restless in his position and eager for a new challenge that would be less taxing on his personal life. In Chicago, he takes over a franchise that has not won the World Series since 1908. If the Cubs break that string under his direction, Epstein would be a sure bet for the Hall of Fame.

Cherington, 37, inherits a talented roster but first needs to find a manager and coaching staff.

A New Hampshire native and Amherst College graduate, Cherington has been with the organization since 1999. He started as an amateur scout before joining the baseball operations department.

Cherington has since been the director of player development, vice president of player personnel, and coordinator of international scouting. He became a senior vice president and assistant general manager in 2009.

In the nine days since Epstein reached agreement with the Cubs on a five-year, $18.5 million deal, Cherington has been running the Red Sox’ baseball operations.

Team owner John Henry has voiced confidence in Cherington’s ability to replace Epstein.

The Red Sox baseball operations staff is expected to stay largely intact under Cherington, at least through 2012.

Senior vice president of player personnel and international scouting Craig Shipley, vice president of player personnel and pro scouting Allard Baird, and vice president of player development and amateur scouting Mike Hazen are not believed to be joining Epstein.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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