Boston Red Sox case for trading outfielder Mookie Betts

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox hits a sixth inning home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox hits a sixth inning home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have countless reasons to throw the bank at Mookie Betts but a less-popular option must be explored for the team’s future flexibility.

Regardless of opinion on how to run a business, particularly one as unique as the Boston Red Sox organization, having the best talent available tops all wish lists. Running a business requires many parts running smoothly as a whole, but talent is what separates the bad from the good, and the good from the great.

In the case of the Red Sox, talent has usually been well-stocked throughout the years. More specifically, their on-field talent has been comparably omnipresent throughout the years to a point where it’s almost hard to imagine a Sox team without a top-tier player or more. Going back just a few decades, there’s been Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and many more who deserve mentioning. This consistent theme of fielding talent has led the Red Sox to four World Series titles since 2004, more than any other team in that time frame.

No one, however, possessed the type of all-around talent and ability of current Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts. Especially at the ripe age of 27, a year where most players enter their primes.

The business side of Major League Baseball, and most professional sports organizations for that matter, complicate the simple idea of attaining and keeping all the talent money can buy.  Money in business terms needs to be managed in a way that maximizes the talent put on the field while taking just about everything else management-related into account involving long-term health for a franchise.  Mostly financially, but personnel wise as well.

Thus sparks the emotionally fragile and economically intricate situation the Red Sox have put themselves into while navigating through the offseason. Looking to shed payroll from a team that historically throws money like candy, the Red Sox are looking to tighten up some payroll concerns caused for a number of reasons, but mostly due to the aforementioned wealth of talent that resides on the roster.

Betts, the Boston superstar who is closing in on free-agency, will likely carry a price tag of close to $30 million annually in 2020 before being eligible to sign a contract that will realistically span close to 10 years at a cost of his annual rate in 2020 (well in range of his market value) or more.  Put into perspective, he will make about 1/7 of the team’s desired payroll for the entire 25-player roster. This while having contracts on the books that are anything but beneficial for the long-term flexibility of the team.

In no way is this a reason to approach Betts’ contract situation single-mindedly, or is it a suggestion that he is not worth 1/7 of a team’s budget, because he is. He’s one of maybe two players in the game that one would have to nitpick to find a reason for criticism. The man is an MVP of the league, a World Series champion, winner of too many awards to count on both sides of the ball, etc. He’s every fan and management member’s dream to have on their team, but only until you take the intricacies of contracts and future options into account.

For the 2020 season alone, Boston owes their four highest-paid players not including Mookie close to $95.75 million. Not to mention the $13 million owed to Dustin Pedroia who will likely fill in as a platoon option as a best case scenario. Going forward, this money will be owed for multiple years to come to these players already under contract, good or bad.

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Fast forward a few years and the Red Sox will have to make contract decisions on other key pieces to their core, including Eduardo Rodriguez, who had a breakout season of sorts last year, and Rafael Devers who looks like a star in the making. All things that need to be considered when deciding whether to commit 1/7 of your allotted cash to one player for the next 10 seasons.

Baseball is a funny game in the sense that superstars don’t tend to have as big of an impact on the team as a whole as they do in sports like football or basketball, for obvious reasons.  Most players only get a few opportunities each game to truly affect the outcome from an individual skill standpoint. Betts is as close to a game-changer in the sport of baseball as one could create in a laboratory. Making the decision and process of the offseason unknown all the more riddled in anxiety for Red Sox management and fans alike.

The biggest question that needs to be addressed, however, is what is best for the Red Sox organization. Just as Mookie needs to do what is best for himself and his family, the Red Sox need to do what is best for the Red Sox and their current and future health.

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Losing Betts might hurt for a long time, but it also might create flexibility to sustain success going forward that seems hard to see in the distance. Stay tuned for what is certainly going to be an action-packed winter for the Red Sox as they look to navigate through this crucial off-season.