BOSTON - To get the former all-star Gagne, the Red Sox sent Kason Gabbard and minor league outfielders David Murphy (.280 at Pawtucket) and Engel Beltre (.215 in the Rookie-level Gulf League) to the Rangers.

The bullpen ERA is 2.74, the best in the big leagues. But with Brendan Donnelly facing Tommy John surgery, Manny Delcarmen still a work in progress, Mike Timlin hurt and 40 and Joel Pineiro in St. Louis, the Red Sox went out a got another reliever yesterday before the trading deadline.

Well, not just another reliever. Not so long ago, Eric Gagne was a history-making closer for the Dodgers. This is how lights out he was: the 6-foot-2 bespectacled right-hander turned 156 appearances into 152 saves for the Dodgers from 2002-04. No closer had ever done anything like that over three years. In that streak were 84 saves in a row. No one ever did that either.

To get Gagne, the Red Sox sent Kason Gabbard and minor league outfielders David Murphy (.280 at Pawtucket) and Engel Beltre (.215 in the Rookie-level Gulf League) to the Rangers. Gabbard (4-0), a lefty, stepped in and pitched effectively when Curt Schilling went on the DL, although in his last start he couldn’t get through the fifth inning even though he was staked to a 9-1 lead. With Jon Lester back after battling cancer, the Red Sox felt they had their rotation southpaw.

While Gabbard was saying his goodbyes, Donnelly got worse news. He’s scheduled for Tommy John surgery either at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. He won’t be pitching any time soon. With Hideki Okajima, Gagne and Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen, Julian Tavarez and Kyle Snyder may be reduced to long relief work or mopup duty.

Manager Terry Francona didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of his relievers when he said, "We absolutely love our bullpen, it just got a little better. (with Gagne)."

While Papelbon and Okajima have been a potent combo as closer and setup man, Gagne can share some of the eighth inning duties with Okajima. On a night after Papelbon has thrown a 20-25 pitch ninth inning, Gagne could close. He is expected to join the Red Sox tonight.

Papelbon called Gagne’s coming "special and intriguing. He’s putting his ego aside ... to come here and win a World Series."

Gagne, 31, was 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA with Texas, with 16 saves in 34 appearances.

"We’ve been very impressed with Eric this year," said GM Theo Epstein, who pointed out that Gagne saved both ends of a doubleheader recently.

Gagne opened the season on the disabled list after offseason back surgery. He went on the DL again (April 13-May 8) with a strained right hip.

Gagne is represented by uberagent Scott Boras, who was promised, said Epstein, that the Red Sox "will make sure (Gagne) stays healthy." Boras, meanwhile, said Gagne "wanted to be in a playoff environment."

Epstein said the team was interested in Gagne over the winter, but he signed with Texas instead. Boston will pick up Gagne’s incentive clauses - which could be as much as $2 million, according to an ESPN report.

Papelbon said Gagne’s addition "is absolutely huge ... a huge confidence boost."

Gagne pitched in just 14 games in 2005 before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery. Last season, he made just two appearances for the Dodgers (back surgery). But his form this year has seemingly erased those injury worries.

"I was excited about our team the other day," said Francona. "I’m more excited now."