BOSTON (AP) – The question is no longer whether the Boston Red Sox can find a general manager to replace Theo Epstein.

It’s whether they need to.

Without a baseball boss since Epstein resigned on Halloween, the Red Sox finished up a major trade with the Florida Marlins on Thanksgiving, acquiring right-hander Josh Beckett, third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Guillermo Mota for four prospects.

“We haven’t had a problem,” said Bill Lajoie, who at 71 qualifies as the grown-up in a baseball operations department running the Red Sox since the wunderkind GM walked away. “We’ve got four guys getting along great, and we’re all dividing up the things to do.”

The rudderless Red Sox sent four executives from the baseball operations department to the general managers’ meetings in California. When the Marlins offered a deal involving Beckett and Lowell, the team picked Craig Shipley, a special assistant to the GM, to handle the negotiations.

“Craig was assigned to follow up on the call and to keep us informed,” Lajoie said. “When the action got pretty ripe, the three owners and the baseball ops’ department of four were involved in continuing to decide what players we would like to put in.

“It does take a little more time when you’re dealing with seven people instead of four. But I’m excited about the way we’ve all been contributing to whatever it is we have to do.”

The Marlins were eager to get rid of Lowell, who will make $18 million over the next two seasons, and to make it happen they were willing to part with Beckett, the MVP of the 2003 World Series. But Florida wanted shortstop Hanley Ramirez – once considered the top prospect in the Boston system – and pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado.

The deal was almost final on Monday, but the Red Sox reportedly threatened to scuttle it after looking at Beckett’s medical records. The 25-year-old right-hander has had nine stints on the disabled list in four seasons, six of them because of blisters on his right middle finger.

The Marlins agreed to throw in setup man Guillermo Mota, and Boston included minor leaguer Harvey Garcia in exchange.

“Things went back and forth before the deal was consummated,” said Shipley, 42. “There were a lot of players in and out of the deal as it progressed.”

Hours before announcing the deal with the Red Sox, the salary-slashing Marlins also traded slugger Carlos Delgado and most of his $48 million contract to the New York Mets for first baseman Mike Jacobs and two minor leaguers. Florida GM Larry Beinfest conceded that the team, which has been unable to get public support for a new ballpark, was forced to cut payroll.

“Even when we won the World Series in 03, we were kind of in a honeymoon for about a week, but it died out real quick,” Lowell said when asked if South Florida will support the team through its fire sale. “I don’t think we were supported even when we were winning. So I don’t expect them to start drawing fans when they’re getting rid of every name guy.”

The Red Sox, whose $126.8 million payroll was the second-highest in baseball last season, could afford to take on Lowell to get Beckett.

“You need prospects and you need finances, and we’re fortunate to have both of those,” Shipley said. “There are a lot of teams that would have liked to have Josh, if they had those.”

But Lajoie insisted that Lowell, who won a Gold Glove last season but declined offensively, was not forced on Boston.

“It wasn’t the fact that we had to take Mike; it’s that we wanted Mike,” Lajoie said. “We look for him to bounce back. The fact that he had an off-year did not detract from his value in our eyes.”

A lifetime .272 hitter, Lowell averaged 23 homers in the five full seasons before 2005. But this year he hit just eight homers with 58 RBIs and a .236 average. Lowell said he got off to a slow start and got impatient, then began tinkering with his swing.

“I’ve never been more excited for a season to start than this one,” he said Friday night. “I can’t believe the six years prior to last year are a fluke and that’s what I really am.”


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