Lowell has no future with Red Sox

Prediction: Mike Lowell will never play another game for the Red

Sox.

If the relationship between the player and team is not beyond

repair, it’s pretty close.

The Red Sox obviously do not want Lowell playing third base

for them next season. In fact, they have not wanted Lowell from

roughly the time he underwent surgery on his right hip after the

2008 season.

The evidence:

– The Red Sox’s attempt to sign free-agent first baseman Mark

Teixeira last offseason, which would have resulted in Kevin

Youkilis moving to third and Lowell likely getting traded one year

after he signed a three-year, $37.5 million free-agent contract

with the team.

– The Red Sox’s trades for catcher Victor Martinez and first

baseman Casey Kotchman last July 31, which increased Youkilis’

playing time at third and reduced Lowell’s shortly after Lowell

came off the disabled list with a right hip strain.

– The Red Sox’s willingness to pay $9 million of Lowell’s $12

million salary in their proposed trade with the Rangers – a

trade that is now off because Lowell will require thumb surgery and

miss 6 to 8 weeks.

Lowell, who turns 36 on Feb. 24, has no recourse; he was a

good soldier and effective hitter when healthy last season, and is

not the type to demand a trade. Still, few players are comfortable

staying with teams that do not want them. And the Red Sox keep

looking for more help.

While the Sox currently would open the season with Kotchman

and Youkilis at the infield corners, they still could sign

free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre or trade for Padres first

baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Both moves – the Gonzalez one, in particular –

are unlikely. But what are the odds that the Sox want to keep

Lowell as a $12 million bench player? He probably will be no more

than that in 2010 due to his hip problem and possibly his thumb

issue as well.

Releasing Lowell would be too extreme; he is popular in

Boston and still productive offensively, particularly at Fenway

Park. But the Sox eventually will complete the kind of deal they

tried to make with the Rangers, paying most of Lowell’s salary to

make him disappear.

The Rangers could even revive their interest in spring

training if Lowell shows he is healthy.

Basically, this is Julio Lugo all over again – the Sox

assumed nearly all of the $13 million remaining on Lugo’s contract

when they traded him to the Cardinals for outfielder Chris Duncan

last July.

The difference is, Lowell thrived in Boston and Lugo did not.

The Red Sox signed Lowell to his current deal after he drove in 120

runs for their World Series championship club in 2007. Lowell’s hip

surgery after the ’08 season obviously changed the team’s

perspective. But this has gone on for too long.

At some point, for the sake of both parties, the Red Sox need

to trade Mike Lowell.