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Red Sox have about a week to close deal

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Boston Red Sox have about a week to
close a trade for Alex Rodriguez.

Texas general manager John Hart would like to know by the end of
the winter meetings on Dec. 16 whether the American League MVP will
remain with the Rangers for next season. The Rangers have been
discussing a trade that would send him to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.

"As long as this potentially is alive, it precludes us from
having a road map of what we can do with anybody else," Hart said
Sunday. "The sooner we have a resolvement, the better."

The deal would be a swap of baseball's only $20 million-a-year
players. In a sign of how extraordinary the situation is,
commissioner Bud Selig is allowing the Red Sox to speak directly
with Rodriguez. In most situations, a tentative trade must be in
place before baseball grants a window for a team to speak with a
player under contract to another club.

"To the extent that it happened, the commissioner has approved
it," said Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball
operations in the commissioner's office.

Asked whether he had granted permission, Selig declined comment.

The Boston Herald, citing unidentified sources, first reported
Saturday that Red Sox owner John Henry had spoken to Rodriguez.
Rangers owner Tom Hicks told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that
Rodriguez was allowed to meet with Henry more than a week ago.

"It was more of a get-acquainted meeting," Hicks was quoted as
saying.

The Boston Globe reported in Sunday's editions that Henry is expected to
meet with Rodriguez and his agent, Scott Boras, after returning
from Tuesday's dedication of the team's baseball academy in the
Dominican Republic.

The meeting will be to discuss restructuring the MVP shortstop's contract, according to the Globe.

Rodriguez, however, in Monday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, denied a meeting has been arranged and that no one has discussed restructuring his contract with him.

"I don't have any meetings scheduled with anybody, and I don't know of any meetings," Rodriguez told the paper. "That's complete speculation."

The Red Sox refused to confirm or deny the possibility of a
trade.

Rodriguez agreed in December 2000 to a record $252 million,
10-year contract with Texas. Ramirez and the Red Sox agreed the
same day to a $160 million, eight-year deal.

Hart said Sunday, after the Rangers refused salary arbitration
for Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, that the team was preparing
to move forward with A-Rod at shortstop and is "very excited"
about that.

"I recognize that a lot of things can change, a lot of dynamics
in the next week that could take us through the winter meetings,"
Hart said. "But to this point, there has been little or no contact
with any clubs regarding Alex."

Rodriguez led the majors in homers his first two seasons with
Texas, and hit an AL-high 47 last season with 118 RBIs. Ramirez had
at least 33 homers and 104 RBIs in each of his three seasons in
Boston.

Hart said he hadn't spoken directly to Rodriguez, but had
several conversations with his agent, Scott Boras, about the
shortstop and other players.

He said there wasn't much to discuss about a possible trade at
this point.

"This has been a lot built up over very little," he said.