The Boston Red Sox have reached a preliminary agreement to trade third baseman Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers for catcher Max Ramirez, according to a report on ESPN.

The Red Sox will pay $9 million of Lowell's $12 million salary, sources told the network. The trade was first reported by FoxSports.com.

A cash transfer of that magnitude would require approval from the commissioner's office.

As of yesterday, the deal had not reached the point where it had been sent to the commissioner. But according to a baseball source, Selig, with some reservations, will grant his approval, unless there are some other issues that have yet to be disclosed.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels had said both teams still had the option of walking away from the deal, but other club executives said it was their understanding that the deal would move forward. One team that looked at Lowell was Houston, whose new manager is former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, but the Astros decided that he was too great a question mark to play third base, according to one source.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein has not responded to requests for comment.

Passing a medical exam may not be the formality it is in many trades. Lowell, who turns 36 on Feb. 24, had surgery after the 2008 season for a torn labrum in his right hip, which drastically affected his mobility in the field last season. Lowell played in 119 games but missed a dozen games when he went on the disabled list because of a strained hip.

Lowell also missed nearly a month at the start of the 2008 season with what was called a sprained left thumb.

Asked if the remaining hurdles to the deal were health or financial issues, Daniels said, "Any of the above. Both clubs have the ability to pursue other options."

The Rangers, if the deal goes through, would use Lowell as a righthanded designated hitter and part-time first baseman, a position he has never played in the big leagues. Lowell has played 1,470 games at third base, winning a Gold Glove in 2005.

Noteworthy

* Looking to fill two big holes and add much-needed power to their lineup, the Mets have made contract offers to a pair of free agents: leftfielder Jason Bay and catcher Bengie Molina.

The team's bid for Bay was between $60 million and $65 million over 4 years. Molina would cost much less.

Bay, 31, batted .267 with 36 homers and 119 RBI last season for Boston. He is said to have turned down a $60 million, 4-year offer from the Red Sox.

Molina, 35, hit .265 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs this year for San Francisco.

* Righthander Rich Harden and the Texas Rangers completed a 1-year contract that guarantees him $7.5 million. The oft-injured pitcher, who was 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA for the Cubs last seasopn, had to pass a physical before the agreement was finalized.

* Former AL Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby and the Pirates agreed Thursday to a $1 million, 1-year contract. The infielder had spent his previous seven seasons with Oakland and was voted the rookie honor in 2004.