BOSTON -- While deeply troubled by the team's September collapse, departed Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had been contemplating -- some say desiring -- a move out of Boston for more than a year, according to sources close to the situation.
Source: Theo should have acted sooner during September collapse
People with knowledge of the situation say Epstein's often-tempestuous relationship with team president and CEO Larry Lucchino became contentious again in the last 12-14 months. While there was no single confrontation or "discussion" that pushed Epstein away from the Sox, they talked of a continuous series of give-and-takes that created more complications between the two.
"When Larry's in the picture, he is unyielding, pushing, prodding, and asking questions," said a source. "Theo's his own man, but that can wear on you over time."
Epstein reportedly took some of the interaction with Lucchino personally.
"While someone said in 'The Godfather' that business isn't personal," said an insider, "here, it just can't be that way." There was a feeling among some in the front office that Epstein needed to find a way to view these "slights" as being strictly business-related and not personal, and he was sometimes able to do so. But there were periods in the last year, said the source, that were "trying".
Epstein had always said being Red Sox general manager wouldn't be a lifetime position, and events of the last year made him even more receptive when the Cubs job opened.
Sources say Chicago had identified Epstein as the possible head of its Baseball Operations department long before August, which is when Cubs owner Tom Ricketts declared the search as being underway. Those who are knowledgeable about the search, and of Epstein's restlessness, pegged the two as ideal fits and said - in essence - it was, in the words of one, "love at first sight".
"How could he say no to this opportunity in Chicago?" said a Red Sox insider. "I know people think the 'honorable' thing would be to right the wrongs here in Boston, but we're on good ground. Better than good ground, despite the media's and talk show crackpots' assertions otherwise.
"This is a chance that anyone in Theo's position dreams of. It's the logical next step."
And one member of the Red Sox organization doesn't think events of the last two months -- on and off the field -- should tarnish Epstein's Boston legacy.
"Let's not forget he has two World Series on his resume," he said. "Let's hope the people within these walls remember that, as well."