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Cubs ask to talk to Red Sox’ Theo Epstein

With Theo Epsteas GM Red Sox wWorld Series titles 2004 over Cardinals 2007 over Rockies. | EzrShaw~Getty Images

With Theo Epstein as GM, the Red Sox won World Series titles in 2004 over the Cardinals and in 2007 over the Rockies. | Ezra Shaw~Getty Images

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Updated: November 16, 2011 9:06AM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Cubs’ general-manager search took a major step Tuesday with a Boston Globe report that the team formally asked the Red Sox for permission to talk to Theo Epstein.

And with the Tampa Bay Rays eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday, the Cubs also are expected to formally inquire about the Rays’ Andrew Friedman, considered the top young GM in the game.

The Globe also reported that Red Sox brass met Tuesday night to discuss the request. Part of that discussion was expected to include the subject of player compensation for Epstein if the team allows him to interview and then walk from the final year of his contract.

Some rival executives privately suggest that if the White Sox could command two well-regarded prospects from the Miami Marlins for manager Ozzie Guillen, the Red Sox should be able to get even more from the Cubs for the proven commodity of a GM who has transformed a ‘‘cursed’’ franchise.

Cubs officials declined comment on the report, but sources confirmed that Epstein has been at the top of the Cubs’ wish list since the firing of Jim Hendry this summer.

ESPN analyst and former big-league GM Jim Bowden reported that a source said that Epstein is willing to consider either the Cubs’ or Los Angeles Angels’ jobs if ‘‘president’’ is included in his ­title. This would prevent Cubs team president Crane Kenney from meddling in baseball business.

Multiple respected executives recently have said that Kenney is perceived to be a credit-taking, finger-pointing baseball-ops wannabe, a reason for hesitation among potential candidates.

If the Cubs land Epstein, his former manager in Boston, newly minted free agent Terry Francona, could come in a package deal. Their eight-year GM-manager partnership resulted in two World Series titles in five playoff appearances.

Should the Red Sox or Epstein balk — or the compensation demands get too steep — the Cubs potentially have another strong candidate in Friedman.

The Cubs have yet to reach out to Friedman. Many close to the unusually harmonious owner-GM-manager relationships of Stuart Sternberg, Friedman and Joe Maddon don’t expect Friedman to ­entertain offers.

‘‘I don’t think so,’’ said Maddon, who is signed with the Rays through 2012. ‘‘We’re all tied in here pretty closely. The ownership, too.’’

Friedman, who echoed Maddon’s assessment of the Rays’ dynamic, declined to discuss his own status, especially related to other teams.

But unlike Maddon, he’s one of a handful of high-level Rays officials who works without a contract, technically making him as much of a free agent as he wants to be.

And while sources close to him consider it a long shot that he would leave, they also say the Cubs’ opening is the one other GM job he would consider.

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