THE BOSTON Red Sox acquired reliever Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros yesterday for infielder Jed Lowrie and righthander Kyle Weiland.

The deal gives the Red Sox a potential replacement for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed as a free agent with the Phillies. Melancon had 20 saves this year, going 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 71 relief outings during his first full major league season.

Weiland will be given a chance to win a spot in the Houston rotation. To make room on their 40-man roster, the Astros designated infielder Brian Bixler for assignment.

Melancon, 26, a righthander, pitched a total of 35 games in 2009 and 2010 with the New York Yankees and Houston with no saves.

"The more experience he was able to get gave him more confidence to go out and throw," Astros manager Brad Mills said on a conference call.

Mills wasn't ready to name his new closer.

"We'll have to assess the situation," he said. "We're not going to figure out our entire pitching situation on Dec. 14."

Lowrie, 27, should fill a vacancy at shortstop. Clint Barmes started 120 games there for Houston last season, then signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Lowrie spent time on the disabled list each of the last three seasons because of problems with his left wrist, left forearm and right shoulder, and a bout with mononucleosis.

The switch-hitter played all four infield positions last season and hit .252 with six homers and 36 RBI in a career-high 88 games.

"For me, it's about playing and that's always what I've wanted," Lowrie said. "Hopefully, I get that opportunity in Houston."

But he is going from a perennial contender to a rebuilding team.

"I had a couple of years of playoff experience in Boston and I think it was an opportunity for me to learn what it is on the biggest stage in baseball," Lowrie said. "I want to bring that experience and that winning attitude and culture to Houston. Even if the team is rebuilding, it's about winning."

Weiland, 25, was 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in seven games, including five starts, last year for Boston. He spent most of the season in the minors but was promoted when several Red Sox starters were sidelined.

Mills said Weiland would compete for a spot in Houston's rotation.

In other news:

 * The Oakland Athletics agreed to a $3.35 million, 1-year contract with lefthander Dallas Braden.

* The Arizona Diamondbacks reached agreement on a 1-year, $1.75 million contract with 41-year-old righhander Takashi Saito. The former All-Star went 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 30 relief appearances for the NL Central-champion Milwaukee Brewers last season.

* According to several reports, the Cardinals are talking with the agent of former Phillies lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero about a 1-year deal. The team also finalized a 2-year, $14 million free agent deal with shortstop Rafael Furcal.

* C.J. Wilson will earn $10 million in 2012 as he starts his $77.5 million, 5-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The lefthander's salary will rise to $11 million in 2013, $16 million in 2014, $18 million in 2015 and $20 million in 2016.

* The San Francisco Giants were working to finalize a $1 million, 1-year contract with free-agent reliever Guillermo Mota to bring him back for a third season. The sides had agreed to terms and were waiting to complete a physical and final paperwork for the 38-year-old righthander.