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Lowell deal a matter of when, not if

Lowell deal a matter of when, not if

BOSTON -- When Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees instead of the Red Sox, Mike Lowell noted at the time how he was able to avoid an awkward scenario of spending Spring Training taking grounders at third base next to Kevin Youkilis, knowing that he was auditioning for an inevitable trade.

However, a similar scenario could be ready to unfold this spring in Fort Myers, Fla., as the Red Sox have agreed to terms on a contract with free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.

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Then again, there's a chance Lowell could be dealt before Spring Training. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com posted on Twitter on Monday night that the Red Sox have spoken to the Mets about a potential Lowell-Luis Castillo trade.

It's hard to see the fit there, however, because Castillo has been a second baseman for his entire career. The Red Sox already have a star second baseman in Dustin Pedroia, so Castillo would be reduced to a backup role in Boston.

The 35-year-old Lowell, who underwent surgery last week to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, should be fully recovered early in Spring Training.

Though the Rangers pulled out of a trade for Lowell once it was determined he needed the surgery, perhaps other suitors will be more willing to take a chance on a veteran run producer who has been known as a clubhouse leader throughout his career.

Lowell is due to earn $12 million in 2010, the final year of his contract, but the Red Sox would have covered $8 million to $9 million of that if the deal with the Rangers -- for catching prospect Max Ramirez -- had gone through.

No matter what the timing is on a Lowell trade, it is doubtful he will be with the Red Sox by Opening Day.

The Red Sox now have Beltre at third base and Youkilis at first, with Casey Kotchman providing depth. When Kotchman plays first, Youkilis can spot Beltre at third. That won't leave much playing time for Lowell, particularly since the Red Sox have David Ortiz as their designated hitter.

Though Lowell has been a productive hitter throughout his four seasons in Boston, the club has been concerned over the past couple of seasons about his decreased range, which was caused by right hip woes and, perhaps, age.

Lowell underwent surgery on his right hip in October 2008. Doctors have said all along that his mobility should be better in 2010 than it was last year, but the Red Sox thought that the chance to get an elite defender such as Beltre was one that could not be passed up.

The Red Sox acquired Lowell on Thanksgiving of 2005, along with Josh Beckett, in a trade with the Marlins. Eventual star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, then a prospect, went to Florida.

Lowell and Beckett played crucial roles in the Red Sox winning the 2007 World Series. In fact, Lowell was the World Series Most Valuable Player.

In four seasons with the Red Sox, Lowell has averaged 19 homers and 87 RBIs. He hit .290 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs in 119 games in 2009.

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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