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Contrary to a previous report by the Globe, Epstein and the Red Sox didn't reach an agreement - instead, he's leaving the organization and will be looking for a new home for the 2006 season.

Theo Epstein stunned the Red Sox and the baseball world this afternoon by walking away from his job as general manager.

    Just hours before his deal was set to expire at midnight, Epstein told his bosses and associates at the Red Sox' Yawkey Way offices that he had decided not to accept a three-year deal worth $1.5 million a year, an extension for the contract he signed on Nov. 25, 2002.

Epstein accomplished everything he'd ever dreamed of in Boston, winning a world championship in his second year at the helm while guiding the Red Sox to three consecutive 95+ win seasons. To his successor, he leaves a talented, yet expensive and aging roster, one which began to show several cracks in 2005 over the course of the summer. There's a lot of money tied up in a lot of players for a lot of years, and whoever gets hired as a replacement will have to set about rebuilding a pitching staff while figuring out a way to make Manny Ramirez shut the hell up. Being the face of the Red Sox is no small task, and the pressure played a large part in Epstein's walking away from the team when it looked like he was close to returning. The next guy's going to have his work cut out for him, to be sure.

So, what becomes of Epstein, and who takes over in Boston? Los Angeles seems an unlikely destination, given its recent experiences with a similar GM, and at the same time Paul DePodesta doesn't look like much of a choice for the Red Sox, given that his poor leadership and communication skills would make for a disaster under the microscope of the Boston media. While Epstein may go on to find himself in high demand, the situation in Boston will merit considerable attention, as nothing can be done to a roster that needs a lot of work until the team finds a suitable replacement.