Teams lose all the time.

How do they handle the losing? That is a measure of one’s character.

And the character of the Boston Red Sox ownership group is coming through crystal clear.

In a word, pathetic.

It was not enough that the owners did not pick up the options on Terry Francona’s contract before the 2011 season. It wasn’t enough to make it clear after the season that Francona was not wanted back, and then try to spin it that Francona’s exit was all his idea.

No, ownership then had to smear Francona, a good man who deserved to leave Boston with his reputation intact.

In an article last week in the Boston Globe, allegations were made that Francona may have been distracted by marital problems, may have had a problem with painkillers, and may have been less focused because his son and son-in-law are serving in Afghanistan.

The sources for the allegations are anonymous, but the Globe states that they were people “familiar with the Sox operation at all levels.”

All fingers point toward Red Sox management dragging their former manager through the mud.

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling blasted the ownership on ESPN, calling their actions “character assassination of the worst kind.”

What was Francona’s crime? Did the September collapse ruin a record of five playoff appearances and two world championships?

Or did Francona’s brief revelation in his final press conference – that he did not feel that ownership backed him – make him the target of such an attack?

Ownership comes across as arrogant and paranoid.

No wonder why Theo Epstein bolted for Chicago.

Ben Cherington, Epstein’s lieutenant, is expected to replace Epstein.

Good luck, Ben.

Remember when Epstein briefly left the organization after the 2005 season because of interference from the Red Sox business side (read: Larry Lucchino)? Epstein eventually returned, with apparent less interference from Lucchino.

How will ownership treat a new general manager?

And how will the new general manager and manager treat the players still on the team? From Wednesday’s Globe story, several comments have arisen concerning beer drinking and eating fried chicken during games.

But the most damning paragraph talked about the players falling out of shape, citing Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester along with “a number of teammates” who cut back their exercise programs “despite appeals from the team’s strength and conditioning coach Dave Page.”

We don’t know how accurate that portrayal is (already we are hearing that Lester was more disciplined than reported). But the fact of so many injuries and how the team wore down does reflect on physical conditioning.

CALLS FOR TRADING BECKETT, following the Globe story, have popped up in the media and on talk radio. They are knee-jerk reactions.

You cannot replace a Josh Beckett. Teams don’t trade frontline starters.

If the Red Sox want to make it look like they are cleaning house, they can get rid of Lackey. Eat the salary, but get him out of the clubhouse and off the Fenway mound.

DAVID ORTIZ IS now making noise that he may not want to return to Boston because of the latest soap opera. While Ortiz had a solid 2011 and his presence would be missed in the middle of the order, maybe it is not a bad time to say good-bye to Big Papi.

I know I said two weeks ago that Ortiz could still contribute. But that is not a sure thing. He will be 36 next month.

Without Ortiz, the Red Sox could be a lot more flexible with the DH position, rotating in players like Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Lavarnway.

If the Red Sox do not sign Ortiz, ready yourself for the story to follow, vilifying Ortiz, all according to anonymous sources.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases