Two-and-a-half months after he left the Red Sox, certain that his heart and soul were no longer fully invested in the position of general manager, Theo Epstein will be returning to the Sox as early as next week, the team announced Thursday night.
Epstein's exact role and title, and the subsequent title adjustments for co-GMs Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington, had not been completely determined as of Thursday night. The club, in a release, indicated only that Epstein, who in 2004 led the team to its first World Series championship in 86 years, would be rejoining the Sox in a ''full-time baseball operations capacity." However, expectations within the organization point to Epstein returning as the lead decision-maker within baseball operations, with Hoyer and Cherington working under him.
Hoyer would not directly address the job description awaiting Epstein upon his return, but did say, ''We're definitely a stronger organization with Theo a part of it. Certainly Ben and I, our goal all along was to add continuity and keep in the place the structure we all built together."
The lurking possibility of Epstein's return the last couple months, Hoyer said, ''was something we knew and embraced. Having Theo, who was a big part of this organization, only makes us a better team. We'll never turn down a superstar, on the field or off."
Principal owner John W. Henry, in an interview with the Globe Thursday prior to the team's formal announcement, said Epstein was ''not going to come back in a higher position" than he held before. That would seem to suggest that none of president/CEO Larry Lucchino's power would be usurped in the process of Epstein's reemergence.
Hoyer and Cherington, who just weeks ago accepted the jobs of co-GM, stand to be in an awkward position in this transition, and Henry acknowledged, ''I understand that."
Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino all did not respond to e-mails seeking comment Thursday night. Epstein, too, declined to comment. However, the four Sox executives issued a joint statement through the team's public relations department, in which they indicated that through regular conversations over the last 10 weeks, philosophical divisions have been bridged.
''We have engaged in healthy, spirited debates about what it will take over the long-term for the Red Sox to remain a great organization and, in fact, become a more effective organization in philosophy, approaches, and ideals," the four said in the statement.
''Ironically, Theo's departure has brought us closer together in many respects, and, thanks to these conversations, we now enjoy the bonds of a shared vision for the organization's future that did not exist on October 31 [when Epstein resigned].
''With this vision in place, Theo will return to the Red Sox in a full-time baseball operations capacity, details of which will be announced next week."
Epstein, at the time he left, said the appearance of a power struggle with Lucchino ''really wasn't the case." He also said, ''to do this job you have to believe in every aspect of the job. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe in the people you work with. You have to believe in the whole organization. You have to believe this is the right place, and really go all in, put your faith and your trust in the organization.
''The process revealed that I could not put my whole heart and soul into the job at this time."
A team source close to those negotiations revealed in early November that just before resigning, Epstein examined several issues, foremost among them whether his trust in Lucchino was well placed. There also appeared to exist a divide in philosophies -- Epstein's desire to somewhat retool the club around pitching and defense and younger players even if public scrutiny was harsh, juxtaposed against upper management/ownership's apparent resolve to spend on older, established players.
Henry, in his early-in-the-day interview with the Globe, said, ''There was more than one issue [to be resolved]. There are issues between Theo and I that no one ever talks about. Everybody takes as fact things that are said as speculation. Everybody wants to blame Larry. I don't understand it. I get criticized for sticking by Larry."
Asked about the relationship between Lucchino and Epstein, Henry called it ''good."
''They've been able to work together," Henry said. ''That's been happening."
And, beginning as soon as next week, it will be happening once again on a full-time basis.