BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Red Sox returned to their clubhouse Saturday to find empty lockers where Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford stored their gear before they packed for Los Angeles in a trade that dismantled the underperforming ballclub and gave it a chance to rebuild without their hefty contracts.

The deal, which would bring first baseman James Loney and four prospects to Boston and also send utilityman Nick Punto to the Dodgers, had not been confirmed by either team when the Red Sox clubhouse opened at 3:35 p.m. But pitcher John Lackey had already claimed Beckett’s locker and the others’ were left with generic nameplates after the players cleared out Friday night and Saturday morning.

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“They’re not down there. Their boxes are all packed. So it’s semi-official,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said.

The Red Sox called a news conference for 5 p.m. EDT with general manager Ben Cherington and the Dodgers called one for 5:30 p.m. EDT with GM Ned Colletti.

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But Gonzalez, a former San Diego Padres star, said on Twitter in English and Spanish that he was excited to get back to California. Beckett joined the social media site to thank Red Sox fans, and Punto posted a picture of the three of them on what appears to be a private jet with the caption, “(hash)dodgers doing it first class!”

The trade would save the Red Sox $261 million in salary through 2018 and give them a fresh start as they try to rebuild from the fried chicken and beer fiasco of September 2011. Manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein didn’t last through the fall, and the team’s 60-66 record under Valentine so far this season convinced the team’s brain trust that a more drastic upheaval was necessary.

Beckett helped the Red Sox win the 2007 World Series but was seen as the ringleader in last year’s collapse, when the ballclub went 7-20 in September and missed a playoff spot on the final day of the season. Reports of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games surfaced afterward, and Beckett’s haughty demeanor continued to alienate fans even as his ERA rose.

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The 2003 World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins, Beckett now moves from the home of Dunkin’ Donuts to the land of In-N-Out Burger, bringing with him a pair of players who were not productive enough to justify their contracts. Beckett was due $31.5 million over the next two years; Gonzalez has $127 million coming through 2018; Crawford is due $102.5 million over the next five seasons.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.