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12/16/09 5:56 PM EST

Epstein: Beckett 'huge part' of Red Sox

Lackey's contract won't interfere with GM's plans for ace

BOSTON -- The aggressive investment the Red Sox have made in John Lackey -- $82.5 million over five years -- might lead some to believe that 2010 will be Josh Beckett's last season in Boston.

However, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein thinks that such speculation is very premature. In fact, the ink wasn't yet dry on Lackey's new contract when Epstein relayed that very message to Beckett, who is entering the final season of his contract.

"I sent Josh a text message as we were finalizing John Lackey's deal, and I just told him, 'Some might speculate that this means the end for you in Boston,'" Epstein said. "I said, 'Don't listen to them. You're a huge part of what we've had going on here, and we'd love it if it worked out that you were a huge part of our future as well. The most important thing is we've got one heck of a pitching staff right now.' He texted back and he's very excited about the signing. He knows John a little bit. Thinks he's a good man and a great pitcher. He's ready to go for Spring Training. I don't think it impacts Josh nearly to the degree that people are speculating."

Beckett said earlier this offseason that Boston is a place he'd love to continue pitching after his contract runs out. There were even rumblings that he'd sit down and talk about a new deal with the Red Sox at some point this winter.

Has that happened yet?

"That's a [club] policy, we're not really commenting on those type of things," Epstein said. "I think I said at the beginning of the winter -- he's someone we'd like to talk to at some point. That certainly hasn't changed at all."

Lackey and Beckett spent some time together at the 2007 All-Star Game. They have similar bulldog mentalities.

"I don't know him incredibly well, just hanging out at an All-Star Game, just talking," said Lackey. "Our lockers were next to each other. So shagging, just kind of shooting the breeze kind of stuff, but always a respect factor. Especially, because I've gone against him several times in some big games. You know you've got to bring it because you know he's going to bring it, and I hope these people feel the same way about me because you can't always guarantee results, but I will guarantee that I'll be there giving you what I've got."

And perhaps there is a chance Lackey and Beckett will be a tandem beyond 2010.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.