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Red Sox set to acquire Beckett, Lowell

Sox set to acquire Beckett

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BOSTON -- The Red Sox entered this offseason determined to bolster their pitching staff in any way possible. They are on the verge of doing just that, as multiple reports surfaced Monday evening that the Red Sox and Marlins have agreed in principle on a trade that will bring right-hander Josh Beckett to Boston.

A Major League Baseball official confirmed to MLB.com late Monday night that the deal should become official once medical tests are satisfactorily completed for certain players involved in the transaction.

The trade, which was first reported by ESPN's Peter Gammons, would bring Beckett and Gold Glove third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston, while the Red Sox would part with top shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez and highly regarded Minor League right-hander Anibal Sanchez. The Associated Press reported late Monday that Minor League pitcher Jesus Delgado would also be included in the deal.

The Red Sox would not confirm or deny the reports, instead issuing a blanket "no comment".

The Marlins and Rangers had been in deep negotiations the last couple of days in a trade that would have sent Texas third baseman Hank Blalock and prospects to Florida for Beckett and Lowell.

However, the Rangers had a conference call on Monday night in which they informed reporters that the Marlins were moving in a different direction.

Barring a last minute snafu, that direction will be Boston, which would certainly be welcome news to Red Sox Nation, which has been rattled in recent weeks by general manager Theo Epstein's decision to leave the organization.

While the Red Sox continue to look for a new general manager, the assembled group that represents baseball operations (Bill Lajoie, Jeremy Kapstein, Jed Hoyer, Peter Woodfork, Craig Shipley and Ben Cherington) has stayed hard at work, as evidenced by the reported trade proposal with Florida.

Beckett would give the Red Sox a young, power arm in a rotation that showed its age last year.

The motive for the Marlins in the deal is to free up payroll. While the 25-year-old Beckett, who is arbitration eligible for two more years, is a relative bargain, the Marlins would be able to shed the $18 million that Lowell is owed over the next two seasons.

While Beckett has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, he is coming off a year in which he notched career highs in wins (15), starts (29), innings (178 2/3) and strikeouts (166).

What Beckett is best known for is his epic performance in the 2003 World Series, when he went 1-1 with a 1.10 ERA in two starts, and finished the Yankees off with a gem in clinching Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.

Lowell is coming off a down year offensively, as he produced just eight homers and 58 RBIs in 500 at-bats while hitting .236.

It wasn't that long ago that Lowell, 31, was one of the most productive hitters at his position. In 2003, he belted 32 homers and drove in 105 runs. He followed that up with a respectable '04, smashing 27 homers and driving in 85.

Perhaps playing 81 games a year at Fenway Park, where the Green Monster is an inviting 310 feet from home plate, could help revive Lowell.

Bill Mueller, who played third base the last three seasons for the Red Sox, is a free agent. While it was widely assumed that Kevin Youkilis would take over at third base if Mueller left, this potential trade with the Marlins could set the wheels in motion for Youkilis to be part of Boston's first base puzzle in 2006.

Kevin Millar and John Olerud, the team's two first basemen from last season, are both free agents.

But for the Red Sox, the driving factor in this deal is the chance to add a presence like Beckett to their rotation.

Ace Curt Schilling struggled mightily after returning from ankle surgery in 2005, but is looking forward to a revival next year. Boston also has veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield back in the fold for '06, as well as right-handers Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo.

Though left-hander David Wells is under contract, he has requested a trade and the Red Sox are likely to accommodate his request.

The Red Sox have restocked their farm system the last few years, something that has enabled them to entertain thoughts of trading two prospects such as Ramirez and Sanchez.

Ramirez has long been touted by scouts and publications for his five tools, but he's yet to develop into a consistent offensive force in the Minors. In 2005, Ramirez hit .271 with six homers and 52 RBIs at Double-A Portland.

Sanchez, who missed the entire 2003 season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, has come back strong the last two years.

He opened the 2005 season at Class A Wilmington, going 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts. Sanchez was then promoted to Double-A Portland, going 3-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 11 starts.

While it is never easy to part with talented youth, the one positive from this trade from a Boston perspective would be hanging on to Minor League left-hander Jon Lester, who is perceived to have the same upside as righty Jonathan Papelbon, who helped get the Red Sox to the postseason down the stretch of 2005.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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