- Associated Press - Thursday, December 9, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — A night after Carl Crawford enjoyed a steak dinner with the New York Yankees, he served up a meaty surprise: He’s going to play for the rival Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox struck again at these winter meetings, reaching agreement late Wednesday with the star left fielder on a $142 million, seven-year contract.

Boston general manager Theo Epstein wouldn’t directly confirm the move on Thursday.

“If things come together the way we hope and expect, we’ll be really satisfied,” he said.

Predictably, the Yankees quickly raised the stakes for their No. 1 target, increasing their offer to prize pitcher Cliff Lee to a seven-year contract. That’s up from a six-year proposal worth nearly $140 million.

“He’s a premier free agent,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “He’s worth waiting for.”

A person familiar with the Crawford deal told The Associated Press the agreement was subject to him passing a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet finalized.

On Monday, the Red Sox announced they had acquired slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a trade with San Diego.

“You go into every winter with a Plan A, and sometimes it’s hard to pull that off and you move on to Plan B and C,” Epstein said. “I think adding an impact player was very important for where we were in the short-, medium- and long-term and adding two, as long as they were the right players in the right spots in the right situations, would be even better.”

Boston’s big deals came after the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs and ratcheted up pressure on the Yankees to make a splash.

“They’re loading up like they always do,” Cashman said. “This is more significant.”

A person with knowledge of the negotiations told the AP about the increased offer to Lee, without disclosing the dollar amount. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing.

Crawford’s free-agent deal was first reported by The Boston Globe on its website.

The speedy Crawford is a four-time All-Star and just won his first Gold Glove. He hit .307 with 19 home runs, an AL-leading 13 triples and 90 RBIs for Tampa Bay last season. He scored 110 runs and stole 47 bases.

A dynamic player at 29, he has spent his entire major league career with the Rays. He is the franchise leader in several categories, including hits, RBIs, runs and steals.

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