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Smoltz bids farewell
After 21 years, pitcher will leave Braves for Red Sox

ATLANTA - After more than two decades with the Atlanta Braves, John Smoltz is likely to finish his stellar career wearing a different uniform.

In a stunning end to one of baseball's longest runs, Smoltz reached preliminary agreement on a contract with the Boston Red Sox after failing to work out a deal to return for his 22nd season with the Braves.

A person familiar with the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity because the final paperwork had not been completed, said Smoltz will sign a guaranteed deal with the Red Sox worth about $5 million and also have the possibility to earn another $5 million in performance bonuses. The deal was expected to be finalized later Thursday.

Smoltz issued a statement through his agent and said he had little choice except to talk with other teams after hearing what the Braves planned to offer.

'I was going to withhold comment until the announcement of my signing with a new team, but I now feel the need to clear up any misconceptions and inaccuracies about the contract negotiations between myself and the Atlanta Braves,' he said. 'There were large discrepancies between the offer from the Braves and offers from other teams.'

The Red Sox also agreed to a one-year contract with outfielder Rocco Baldelli, but clearly the deal with Smoltz is the biggest splash yet for a team that lost to Tampa Bay in the AL championship series and is looking to keep pace with the rival Yankees, who've doled out $423.5 million in contracts to three players after missing the playoffs last season.

Smoltz, the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves, had pitched for the Braves since 1988. The 41-year-old is coming off major shoulder surgery that sidelined him for most of last season.