Epstein said that the decision to cut ties with manager Terry Francona after the season played a significant role in his decision to accept the job with the Cubs. He suggested that a managerial search led by him, entering his final year as Red Sox GM, would have been "awkward at best, disastrous at worst," and acknowledged that had Francona returned to the Sox for a ninth season, he "probably" would have remained with the Sox to conclude his contract.
Epstein declined to discuss whether he would hire Francona, since Mike Quade remains the Cubs GM, and will meet with Epstein in the coming days. However, Epstein did say that he has "a close personal relationship" and "a tremendous amount of personal respect" for Francona.
Epstein said he could not comment on the number of Red Sox employees he would bring with him to Chicago, but noted how important it was for new Sox GM Ben Cherington to have staff continuity.
"There's not going to be any raid," Epstein suggested.
After the way the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs, on the final night of the regular season, and Francona's departure that came shortly after, Epstein said he was initially too emotional to decide his future. After taking 72 hours to become more objective, he called his decision to join Chicago "well-reasoned."
Epstein said there was some truth to the reports of an unseemly Red Sox clubhouse last season, but "there was a lot of exaggeration, too." Epstein said he is ultimately responsible for any repeated misbehavior that took place in Boston's clubhouse, but noted that any incidents were "not team-wide indulgences. There was not team-wide apathy."
The Red Sox have seen their share of turmoil in the past weeks, but Epstein believes there is no better successor for him than new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.
"Ben is more qualified than anyone in the game to take this job over," Epstein said. "I know I'm biased, because I'm a close, loyal friend, but he is really the best guy for the job."
The two met for the first time when Cherington was a scout, and after discussing organizational philosophies with Cherington, Epstein knew he needed Cherington in a bigger role.
"I realized we need this guy impacting the bigger picture of the organization," said Epstein. "So we moved him over to player development. He went on to become the farm director. He was as responsible as anybody for the great things that have happened in player development for the Red Sox. Then we realized that he would someday be a GM. We created a next step for him where he was in not only player development but also amateur scouting. He was involved in a couple great drafts. Then, as I realized my time might be coming to an end at some point with the Red Sox, we realized that Ben hadn't had the exposure to the major league side. The last couple years, he's immersed himself in the big league side.
"He's had such a well-rounded development. He's got so much integrity. He's so bright. He's got great management skills of people. This guy is going to do a fantastic job. I'm excited to see it happen. I wouldn't have left the Red Sox if he weren't the guy who was going to take over, and if I wouldn't have had assurance that there would be continuity with the whole baseball operations team."