Two World Series rings outweighs Theo Epstein’s betrayal

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Make no mistake: Theo Epstein should not be leaving the Red Sox like this. Not after one of the biggest September collapses in baseball history. Not one year after handing out $142 million for Carl Crawford and two years after giving John Lackey $82.5 million.

If Theo Epstein wanted to leave the Red Sox, he should have left them in better position than this.

It’s one thing to want a new challenge, but Epstein already had a challenge in front of him and he’s simply bailing on it.

And this isn’t like his leaving in 2005. That Theo appeared confused and uncertain of what he really wanted to do next. This Theo is picking a very similar Cubs job over the Boston job. It’s going to be much more difficult for Red Sox fans to accept.

Of course, it’s all forgivable against the two World Series victories. Helped by an ample payroll, Epstein put together playoff-caliber teams in all nine of his seasons as Red Sox GM. The only year the Red Sox were out of the race coming down the stretch was 2006, when the club was devastated by injuries.

But his exit after such a disappointing finish in 2011 leaves a sour taste. And with as many tough choices as the team is facing this winter — particularly when it comes to free agents David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon — Epstein may well be leaving the club in a worse position than the one he inherited nine years ago.