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Theo Epstein to Head Cubs’ Baseball Operations, Leaving Red Sox

Theo Epstein will join the Chicago Cubs as president of baseball operations, leaving the Boston Red Sox to try to turn around another team with a decades-long championship drought.

Epstein, 37, helped build two World Series-winning teams as Boston’s general manager since 2002. Financial terms weren’t disclosed in a news release from the Major League Baseball team. WEEI Radio in Boston, citing unidentified people, reported it was worth $15 million.

Epstein had a year left on his contract with the Red Sox, who will receive compensation which will be determined shortly, according to the release. The Red Sox initially asked the Cubs for starting pitcher Matt Garza and at one point proposed that Chicago take on the remaining three seasons of pitcher John Lackey’s five-year, $82.5 million contract as part of the compensation, ESPN reported.

The Cubs will hold a news conference to introduce Epstein and the Red Sox will name his successor on Oct. 25, which is an off-day during the World Series between St. Louis and Texas. MLB usually prohibits teams from making major announcements during its championship round.

While Epstein will head baseball operations, the Cubs also plan to hire San Diego Padres general manager Jed Hoyer to the same position in their organization, ESPN reports, citing two unidentified people familiar with the situation. Hoyer, 37, was an assistant GM in Boston before joining the Padres in 2009.

No Title Since 1908

The Red Sox made Epstein the youngest general manager in major-league history in 2002, and two years later won the World Series for the first time since 1918. The Cubs haven’t won a championship since 1908, the longest stretch without a title for any major-league team.

“I would tell you if he spends the same amount of time in Chicago, you’ll have a World Series,” said former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who’s now a baseball analyst for ESPN. “I don’t question that for a second.”

Boston also won the World Series in 2007 and reached the postseason in six of Epstein’s nine years with the club.

This year, the Red Sox held a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay on Sept. 4 in the race for the American League wild-card spot before finishing 7-20 and missing a chance to make the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. Their collapse over the last month of the season was the biggest in baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“We’ll be dissecting that forever,” Epstein said at the time.

Francona’s Departure

Two days later, Terry Francona left as manager, saying the club he led to two World Series’ titles needed someone new in charge. The Red Sox are searching for Francona’s replacement, and now must fill the general manager’s job, too.

The Cubs fired Jim Hendry as general manager on Aug. 19, and finished the season with a 71-91 record, in fifth place out of six teams in the National League Central division.

Chicago has reached the playoffs three times in the last nine years, losing in the first round in 2007 and 2008, and finishing a win shy of a World Series spot in 2003. Manager Mike Quade has a year remaining on his contract, with a club option for 2013.

The Cubs were purchased two years ago for $845 million by the family of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. founder Joe Ricketts from the Tribune Co. Tom Ricketts, the team’s chairman, said on CNBC in April 2010 that he wanted to mimic the success of the Red Sox.

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