By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- In the end, Terry Francona wanted out.
And on Friday night, the Red Sox let him go.
The team announced in a statement released at 5:34 p.m. on Friday night it would decline the options on the final two years of Francona's contract, ending his eight-year reign as Red Sox manager. The move was made after a day of intrigue in which a morning meeting -- at which Francona's departure was expected to be made official -- ended inconclusively, and the manager's future was left open-ended.
But Francona's desire to leave became known in Friday night's statement.
We met this morning to look back on the 2011 season and to consider the future of the Boston Red Sox, including my involvement with the club," Francona said in the statement. "I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players.
"After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. Ive always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team."
The owners -- John Henry and Tom Werner, along with CEO Larry Lucchino -- asked after the morning meeting that the sides regroup and ponder their positions. In mid-afternoon, general manager Theo Epstein released a statement that concluded: "There are no immediate plansfor an announcement."
Late in the day, however, the move was made. The owners released the following statement:
We met with Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and assistant general manager Ben Cherington Friday morning to discuss the 2011 season, ways to improve the club in the future, and Titos status. During the meeting, Tito, Theo and Ben agreed that the Red Sox would benefit from an improved clubhouse culture and higher standards in several areas. Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on. After taking time to reflect on Titos sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract.
"We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series Championship seasons and five playoff appearances. His poise during the 2004 post-season was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten.
"We wish him only the best going forward.
Francona plans a press conference at 7 p.m., and Epstein is scheduled to meet the press at 8:15 p.m.
Francona's multiyear deal, signed as part of a contract extention in 2008, included two club option years on for 2012 and 2013. The Red Sox will pay him the 750,000 buyout rather than the 4.25 million due for 2012 and 4.5 million for 2013.
Red Sox ownership has been silent when it came to Francona's future as the team flopped in September, blowing a nine-game lead for the wild card. A ninth-inning, 4-3 loss in Baltimore Wednesday night on the final night of the season, coupled with a victory by Tampa Bay over New York, knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs.
Francona has managed the Red Sox for eight seasons, winning World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. The 2004 title was historic for two reasons: it was the franchise's first since 1918 and it came after the team fell behind the Yankees three games to none in the American League Championship Series.
He also took them to the ALCS in 2008. Under Francona, however, the team was swept from the ALDS in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and missed the post-season altogether in 2010 and this season.
With 744 wins, Francona is second on the franchise's all-time managerial leaders.
In his statement, he said he will miss the team and the fans of Boston.
"In my eight seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, I have developed a tremendous appreciation for Red Sox Nation," said Francona. "This is a special place with some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in all of baseball. They packed Fenway Park for every game and because of them, I had a special sense of pride coming to work every day.
"I want to thank John, Tom, Larry and Theo for giving me the opportunity to manage this team through some of the most successful years in this franchises history.
"I wish the entire organization and all of Red Sox Nation nothing but the very best.