BOSTON -- Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, whose troublesome back prevented him from building on an All-Star first half, will undergo surgery later this week, according to Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.

The 43-year-old Wakefield would like to come back in 2010 for what would be his 16th season in Boston.

As was the case the previous three offseasons, the Red Sox hold a $4 million option on Wakefield.

Because of the club-friendly nature of the contract, and Wakefield's value as a pitcher, the Red Sox are likely to exercise the option as long as there are no complications in the surgery.

Wakefield has had a loose fragment in his lower back since July that has made even walking a chore, while also causing weakness in his left leg. The surgery is expected to require a minimal amount of recovery time, meaning that Wakefield should be ready for the start of Spring Training.

"Wake is someone that is in our plans and we hope he makes starts for us next year and is a member of the rotation," said Epstein. "We haven't sat down and finalized anything. Obviously, we want to see how the surgery goes and then both sides will sit down and talk."

In 21 starts this season -- 17 of which came before the All-Star break - Wakefield went 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA. He has 175 wins in a Red Sox uniform, 17 shy of tying Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the club record. Wakefield has 189 wins in the Majors.