- Associated Press - Friday, August 24, 2012

BOSTON (AP) - Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers’ James Loney were scratched from their teams’ starting lineups Friday night as the clubs tried to finalize a major trade involving the first basemen.

The Red Sox, trying to cut payroll during a disappointing season, also were discussing sending pitcher Josh Beckett, left fielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto to Los Angeles, a baseball official informed of the discussions said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcements were made.

Gonzalez was removed from the Red Sox lineup minutes before a game against the Kansas City Royals, and Loney was pulled from the Dodgers lineup against the Miami Marlins.

The Dodgers began the day in second place in the NL West, three games behind the San Francisco Giants.

The Red Sox started their game seven games under .500 and with little or no postseason hopes. If the trade is completed, the Red Sox would be relieved of a huge salary burden, assuming the Dodgers pick up most of what is owed. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett are due $261 million from 2013-18.

Gonzalez’s deal calls for $127 million after this season: $21 million annually from 2013-16 and $21.5 million in each of the final two years. Crawford is due $102.5 million over five years: $20 million next year, $20.25 million in 2014, $20.5 million in 2015, $20.75 million in 2016 and $21 million in 2017. Beckett is owed $31.5 million: $15.75 million in each of the next two seasons. And the right-hander can veto any trade since he is a 10-year veteran who has spent five years with his current club.

The Red Sox have plummeted after being one of baseball’s best teams for most of last season. They went 6-18 after their collapse began on Sept. 4 last year and they were 65-84 before Friday’s game since the skid began.

Manager Terry Francona was let go after last season and Bobby Valentine was brought in, supposedly to exert more discipline in a clubhouse in which pitchers reportedly ate chicken and drank beer during games rather than stay in the dugout to cheer their teammates.

But Valentine, in the first season of a two-year contract, has had a rocky relationship with some of his players. One of them, veteran third baseman-first baseman Kevin Youkilis, was traded to the Chicago White Sox on June 24. Team president Larry Lucchino has said Valentine will finish this season and owner John Henry has voiced support for the manager.

Rookie Will Middlebrooks took over at third and was having a strong season before it ended when he suffered a broken left wrist when he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 10. He will not need surgery.

The Red Sox also are high on rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 1. Now they’re likely to get some top prospects, if a trade with the Dodgers is finalized, and have extra money to sign free agents.

The Red Sox had placed Gonzalez on waivers, ESPN reported. Teams often do that to gauge other clubs’ interest in players then try to work out a trade.

“Waiver questions? I’m not talking about that,” Gonzalez said before Friday night’s game.

Boston began the season with a payroll of $173.2 million, behind only the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

The Red Sox paid luxury tax in each of the past two seasons. Baseball’s new labor contract contains incentives for teams that get their luxury tax payroll _ based on 40-man rosters, average annual values and including benefits _ under $189 million by 2014.

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