BOSTON (AP) -When John Henry was unloading the Florida Marlins to buy the Boston Red Sox, a shrewd baseball sage gave him a piece of advice.
Sell the team to Jeffrey Loria, but keep Josh Beckett.
``Give them all the players, all the assets,'' Larry Lucchino suggested, ``just pull Beckett out, take a bit less, then bring Beckett to Boston. We couldn't pull that off. Loria wouldn't go for that, but we tried.''
Nearly four years after the February 2002 sale, Red Sox president Lucchino got his man when he signed off on a trade that brought Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. The deal was made after general manager Theo Epstein resigned and before he returned.
On Sunday night, after Boston's 11-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7, Beckett was named MVP of the AL championship series, giving him a companion for the MVP trophy he won in the 2003 World Series.
Lucchino stood in the quiet hallway outside the Boston clubhouse, giving high fives to passing fans and posing for pictures. Inside the champagne-soaked room, Beckett clutched a bottle of bubbly in the right hand that had thrown so many fastballs and curves past baffled batters.
``He's the best pitcher in the game right now,'' said Curt Schilling, the 2001 World Series co-MVP for Arizona, ``and, if it's possible, he gets better in October, and that's saying something. He's a special, special kid with special stuff, and he's at the beginning of a long and storied career.''
Just 27 years old, Beckett had 3.27 ERA and went 20-7 this season, the only 20-game winner in the past two years.
He started the playoffs with a four-hit shutout of the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of the division series. Then he won the first game against Cleveland, allowing two runs run in six innings.
With Boston trailing the best-of-seven series 3-1, an Indians player would have won the MVP award had they won Game 5.
But the Red Sox had Beckett on the mound. He kept the season alive when he gave up just one run in eight innings of a 7-1 victory.
He was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in the ALCS with 18 strikeouts and one walk in 14 innings. The Indians hit just .180 against him.
Beckett gave a lot of the credit to his catcher, Jason Varitek.
``I don't know if we'll cut it in half or not,'' Beckett said of the award. ``It's a team deal. I don't even know how I'm sitting here holding this. There's a lot of MVPs in here to me.''
Now it's on to the World Series and the Colorado Rockies.
Beckett is set to start Game 1 against Jeff Francis at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.
``I'm looking forward to it,'' Beckett said. ``I'd like to have another ring.''
He won his first in 2003, clinching the Series with a complete-game shutout in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. He was 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA in 2005, then joined the Red Sox the next year.
He had trouble in the new league and relied too much on his fastball. The result: a 16-11 record, 5.01 ERA and 36 homers allowed, second-most in the majors. This season he cut that by more than half, to 17.
``I think maturity is the biggest thing,'' rotation mate Tim Wakefield said. ``He's trusting himself, trusting whatever Tek is putting down.''
On Sunday, Beckett found himself in the bullpen in case he was needed on two days rest. Comfortable on the mound, he was in unfamiliar territory with the other relievers.
``He was like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers,'' reliever Mike Timlin said. ``He didn't know what to do, really. He didn't know when to throw, when to warm up.''
Beckett wasn't needed, but starter and winner Daisuke Matsuzaka took comfort in knowing that if he struggled, Beckett was ready.
``This is a very easy bullpen to feel confident passing the ball,'' he said, ``especially with Beckett waiting back there.''
The Red Sox got Beckett to be a starter and the ace of their staff. They also picked up third baseman Lowell, considered a throw-in at the time but a huge contributor this season with a .324 batting average, 21 homers and 120 RBIs. On Sunday, Lowell went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
``There's great satisfaction in the contributions those guys made,'' Lucchino said in the hallway after the game.
The Red Sox gave up shortstop Hanley Ramirez and three young pitchers in the trade, but the players they got are major reasons they have a chance for their second championship in four years.
``We knew we were giving up some talent,'' Lucchino said, ``but when you get two players of that stature, that make those kind of contributions on and off the field, we'd do that deal over every day of the week.''

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