Boston manager Francona leaves Red Sox

(Reuters) - The Boston Red Sox and manager Terry Francona parted ways on Friday, just two days after the team suffered one of the greatest collapses ever witnessed in Major League Baseball.

"We met with Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington Friday morning to discuss the 2011 season, ways to improve the club in the future, and Tito's status," the Red Sox said in a statement.

"During the meeting, Tito, Theo and Ben agreed that the Red Sox would benefit from an improved clubhouse culture and higher standards in several areas.

"Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on.

"After taking time to reflect on Tito's sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract."

Francona departs with the Red Sox still trying to absorb the team's stunning collapse.

Leading the American League East by nine games at the start of September, Red Sox playoff hopes vanished with a 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the final game of the regular season on Wednesday.

Losers of 20 of their last 27 games, the Red Sox came apart from a combination of injuries, a depleted starting rotation and shoddy execution as the mounting pressure of failure wore on the boys from Beantown.

Boston earned the dubious distinction of enduring most awful final-month crash, a black mark of misery compounded by their status as pre-season favorites after an off-season spending spree gave them a $161 million payroll that was third highest in the major leagues.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had said earlier he did not blame Francona for the team's collapse.

But Francona later admitted that the clubhouse had tuned him out and he had been unable to motivate players enough to pull the team out of its September tailspin.

Red Sox officials had met with Francona earlier on Friday and issued a statement saying they would take some time to evaluate the situation and no announcement on the manager's future was imminent.

A few hours later the team issued another statement saying Francona and the Red Sox had ended their eight year relationship.

"We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series championship seasons and five playoff appearances," said the Red Sox statement. "His poise during the 2004 post-season was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten.

"We wish him only the best going forward."

Francona posted a 744-552 record with the Red Sox and leaves with his place in Boston sporting lore secure.

In his first season in charge, the Red Sox ended an 86 year championship drought breaking the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" capturing Boston's first World Series in 86 years.

Francona is unlikely to be without a job long and has already been tipped as a possible replacement for Ozzie Guillen who quit the Chicago White Sox this week before being hired by the Florida Marlins.