CBS News President Sean McManus made the announcement Thursday in a message to the staff.
"Few broadcast journalists have a list of accomplishments and the history of success that Rick has had — the list is truly extraordinary," McManus said.
Kaplan replaces Rome Hartman, a former 60 Minutes producer who took over the evening broadcast in January 2006. The change comes six months after Couric became the Evening News anchor.
Said Kaplan: "I spent the first 10 years of my career at CBS News, including three years working on the 'CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite,' so coming home to that broadcast, especially as executive producer, is particularly thrilling."
Most recently, Kaplan was president of MSNBC (2004-06), during which time the ratings for virtually every hour of the program day experienced significant double-digit growth.
"Rick Kaplan is a big personality with big ideas," Couric said. "Though I've never worked directly with him, I know Rick is an extraordinarily experienced producer who has exciting plans for our broadcast. I'm thrilled he has decided to come home to CBS News."
Rome Hartman, who will remain with CBS News, received a standing ovation from the news staff on Thursday morning.
"I love this place and I'm really grateful for the chance that I've had to work with you," Hartman said. "This is one of the great jobs in journalism."
Couric weighed in with warm praise for Hartman.
"This is a very hard day and a sad day and a terribly disappointing day," she said. In a separate blog post Couric noted: "Rome was one of the reasons I came here to CBS."
The change at CBS was the second major personnel move this week on the evening news front. On Monday, Alexandra Wallace was named executive producer of the NBC Nightly News. She replaced John Reiss.
ABC News' evening news show, "World News," recently knocked the NBC Nightly News from the No. 1 spot in the ratings. NBC has been the longtime ratings leader in the evening. The CBS Evening News has remained in third place since Couric took over six months ago.