If you have read my website (www.sox1fan.com) over the last several years you know that I have an infinite amount of respect for Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. He has proven himself to be a man of courage and principle, as was proven when he traded fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra at the 2004 trade deadline and then took his stand against Larry Lucchino back in 2005.

He has also demonstrated he is bold in the way he will conduct his business, as was apparent when he spent Thanksgiving Day with the Schillings in 2003. There is no question that he is an astute assessor of talent, both on the field and in the front office (except when it comes to selection of a shortstop).

He’s done an incredible job building the farm system and continually replenishing the supply of talent in the minor leagues. Oh yeah, and he (and his protegees) have delivered a pair of world championships to Red Sox Nation.

The string of shortstop misjudgments aside (i.e., Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo and Marco Scutaro), he hasn’t made many errors in his stewardship of the organization. I won’t fault him for Daisuke Matsuzaka, as the entire baseball world believed he scored a coup in that deal.

Brad Penny and John Smoltz? Roll of the dice largely caused by circumstances beyond his control. The Teixeira debacle? It was attributable to the ownership triad that would not go beyond seven years for the current Yankees first baseman.

Look, I’m not giving him a free pass, but no one is perfect. The pluses of his tenure far outweigh the minuses. That is why the just-concluded deal for Adrian Gonzalez just doesn’t make sense to me.

On the face of it, sending three of our top 10 prospects to the San Diego Padres for Gonzalez (with a fourth prospect to be named later) just doesn’t make sense—unless Gonzo has already signed his name to a contract extension.

But, reportedly, the ballclub and Gonzalez were unable to come to terms on such an extension during the 30-hour (+/-) window they were granted.

Regardless, the Sox have finalized the deal with the Padres. Gone are Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Rey Fuentes…and, ultimately, another prospect. Arrived is Adrian Gonzalez…essentially on a one-year rental. It doesn’t make sense to me.

If this deal was pulled off by most other GM’s, I would say it is pretty stupid. But, in this instance we are talking about Theo Epstein, and the more I contemplate the trade the more I’m convinced he has something up his sleeve.

Last year, the club and Josh Beckett agreed to a contract extension during February, but withheld formally announcing the agreement until after Opening Day so the club (read: owners) could save millions of dollars in luxury tax payments.

It is not the way the luxury tax system was designed to work, but the ever-shrewed Epstein found a loophole that allowed him to keep both Beckett AND has bosses happy. It was a nifty trick.

Could that be what is going on here? Would the Red Sox have sent four prospects to San Diego if they didn’t already have a deal in place with Gonzalez? Could it be that today’s failure is just a ruse, designed to allow the organization additional financial flexibility as it navigates through the remaining pool of free agents this winter?

“Signing” Gonzalez a-f-t-e-r Opening Day might save the club $five or $six million in luxury tax payments (as a second-time violator of the salary cap, the Sox would be required to pay a 30 percent tax on all salary in excess of the 2011 threshold).

That is money that could be used to sign Carl Crawford, or Scott Downs (or Brian Fuentes), or anyone else they may have designs on to repair their bullpen (RHP Jon Rauch?).

We aren’t privy to what transpires behind the closed doors along Yawkey Way. We don’t know what happened during today’s talks between Gonzalez, agent John Boggs and Red Sox officials, but finalizing this deal without an extension in place does not make a bit of sense. And based on Theo’s track record, it seems safe to assume there is more here than meets the eye.

Something smells fishy!

Thus, the conspiracy theories must be advanced. Is it possible an extension for Gonzalez is actually in place, and that he’s the 2011 version of Josh Beckett.

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