The Texas Rangers and superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez today agreed to a 10-year deal worth $252 million, making Rodriguez, 25, the highest-paid player in team sports history.

The contract more than doubles baseball's previous standard, the $123.8 million deal left-handed pitcher Mike Hampton signed with the Colorado Rockies on Saturday, and surpasses Kevin Garnett's $126 million contract with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves as the biggest in sports history.

Within hours of the announcement of Rodriguez's deal, the Boston Red Sox reached preliminary agreement on an eight-year, $160 million deal with free agent slugger Manny Ramirez, baseball sources said. The Red Sox's offer blew away the Cleveland Indians, who had hoped to keep Ramirez but could not approach Boston's offer. It is believed that a no-trade clause, which the Red Sox did not even give to Pedro Martinez, was the final impediment to their signing Ramirez.

The Rangers beat out a handful of other clubs for Rodriguez, including the Baltimore Orioles, whose owner, Peter Angelos, made a late move to join the bidding, according to sources at baseball's annual winter meetings. Angelos, apparently without the knowledge of his top baseball executives, phoned Scott Boras, Rodriguez's agent, within the past week and discussed the parameters of a possible bid, but was told Rodriguez was not interested in playing for the rebuilding Orioles.

"When you make a commitment of this nature, it becomes more than a matter of, 'Can this guy hit and catch a baseball,' " Rangers Manager Johnny Oates said. "It's more than a sports decision, it's a business decision. We're talking about marketing a team, marketing an area. Alex Rodriguez is a very, very special individual. Yes, he's special because he can hit a baseball. But it goes much, much further than that. You don't make a commitment like this unless it's a special individual."

Rodriguez, who remained at his Miami home tonight, was unavailable to comment, but Boras said Rodriguez was "emotional" at the end of the process.

The contract was immediately blasted by various baseball executives as exemplary of the disparity between the sport's richest and poorest teams and the lack of restraint and foresight of some of those rich teams' owners, issues that could come to a head when baseball's collective bargaining agreement expires after next season.

"Unfortunately, we are making history in baseball far too often the last few days," said Sandy Alderson, baseball's executive vice president. ". . . This isn't good. This isn't healthy. [The numbers] are beyond alarming. . . . I would view it as bad for baseball. . . . If we haven't already, it's time to realize we have a crisis."

Florida Marlins General Manager Dave Dombrowski, whose team's entire payroll in 2000 was less than Rodriguez's average annual salary will be over the duration of the contract, said the scope of the Rodriguez contract is "overwhelming to clubs like ours."

"There's a major issue that has to be addressed," he said.

However, Rangers owner Tom Hicks said he acted responsibly by dumping salaries in 2000--and paying for it with a last-place, 91-loss finish--in order to clear payroll room for Rodriguez.

Rodriguez's contract, which pays him $23 million in the first year (including a $2 million bonus) and at least $32 million in the last (including an escalator clause), is worth less than $252 million in its present-day value when deferred money--paid out at 3 percent interest--is factored in.

Hicks placed it at $189 million, while Boras said it was higher than that.

The contract contains a full no-trade clause, an escape clause that grants Rodriguez the right to become a free agent after seven years, and an escalator clause that stipulates the Rangers, in the last two years of the contract, must pay Rodriguez $1 million more than the game's highest-paid player, give him a $5 million raise or allow him to become a free agent.

The contract did not include the perks--including his own marketing staff, billboard signage and office space--that the New York Mets said Boras demanded.

"He wants to be treated like any other player on the team," Hicks said. "He didn't ask for anything any of our players don't have."

The Mets, at one time considered the favorites, withdrew from the running in mid-November, triggering the Rangers' "aggressive" pursuit, according to Boras.

The Rangers arranged a two-day meeting with Rodriguez in Dallas the last week in November, and Hicks picked him up at the airport, spending most of the next two days showing Rodriguez around the area and discussing the organization.

After paring the list of suitors to four, the rest took care of itself, as the Seattle Mariners refused to offer more than five years, the Atlanta Braves refused to give a no-trade clause and the Chicago White Sox made a late demand for a face-to-face meeting with Rodriguez.

"If we wanted to get the last dollar, this is not how we would have done it," Boras said. "We had a comfort level with this club."