Red Sox News: Owner claims trading Mookie Betts wasn’t about money

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: John W. Henry, owner of Liverpool ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City at Anfield on August 09, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: John W. Henry, owner of Liverpool ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City at Anfield on August 09, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

Red Sox ownership addressed the media and while they thought they would make fans feel better, it had the opposite effect.

Boston Red Sox owner John Henry and GM Sam Kennedy addressed the media at spring training on Sunday and while a variety of topics were touched upon, the elephant in the room was of course Mookie Betts. Unsurprisingly, the two men were asked what the thought process was behind trading away the Red Sox most talented and popular player and the answers ranged from reasonable to unbelievable (in the literal sense of the word).

When asked about trading Mookie and David Price to the Dodgers, Henry and Kennedy gave the expected answers about appreciating what both players accomplished in Boston and never wanting to be in the position of trading a talent like Betts away. They mentioned that they decided to make the trade when it became clear to them that Betts was probably not going to sign an extension before he hit free agency.

They continued to reiterate that they think they received good value in return (which is still up for debate and will be for a while yet) and Henry lamented that it’s the fault of the current economic system in Major League Baseball that they couldn’t keep Mookie in a Red Sox uniform for his entire career (no mention of the horrible contracts given out to Pablo Sandoval, Price, Chris Sale, or Nathan Eovaldi as contributing factors).

Then he dropped this whopper:

"“You’re hung up on CBT,” Henry told The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman over the weekend. “You see this and I think the media, too, to some extent, ever since we mentioned that clubs have a tendency to get below CBT once in a while. It’s surprising that anyone would think we would outspend every other team in baseball every single year. To me, that’s a little surprising. Clubs have to make difficult decisions, and one of the biggest decisions they have to make is, ‘Do we potentially let a great player walk away for very little compensation?’ That’s one of the decisions that you have to make irrespective of CBT — it has nothing to do with CBT.”"

Read that again. Henry claimed, with a straight face, that trading Mookie and Price had “nothing to do with the CBT.” This begs two questions: 1) if it wasn’t purely a salary dump, then what was it?  and 2) how stupid do the Red Sox think their fans are? The team can claim all they want that it was only about getting something for Betts in case he left in free agency, but by including Price (and still paying half of his remaining salary), they showed beyond a doubt that the move was what everyone has been saying it was: a salary dump.

All one has to do is remember that Henry claimed in September (and even further back in the summer) that the Red Sox mission for 2020 was to slash payroll and get under the luxury tax threshold. He was already backpedaling in January when he told Dan Shaughnessy that he never said that and it was all “media driven noise.”  It’s been a terrible look for Henry all winter and it got worse on Sunday.

To make matters even worse (even though the Red Sox almost certainly thought they were making them better), on Monday morning the official Red Sox twitter account sent out the following message from Henry:

Henry then read it aloud to the assembled fans and media, adding insult to injury when regaling all who were listening with how his “heart would’ve been broken” if Stan Musial, his favorite player on his favorite team growing up, had been traded. Tom Werner also claimed that the Red Sox would’ve accepted the return they ended up with for Betts even if they had been under the CBT at the time of the trade. The entire press conference was tone-deaf and ineffective (you can watch it at that link). At one point, Henry quipped to Werner after being asked if 2020 was a bridge year, “don’t you think this would be a record payroll for a bridge year?”

The whole thing came off as incredibly tone-deaf and frankly, classless. They were dismissive of the media’s questions and the fan blowback they’ve gotten this offseason. With ticket sales down due to an uninspiring team, an incredibly bad offseason in multiple aspects, the Betts trade, and the Red Sox annual raising of ticket prices, it would probably behoove Henry to take a more conciliatory tone with fans and the media.

Next. Grading the Red Sox roster. dark

However, for as much as we’re all fans of this team, we must still remember that these are the Boston Red Sox and throughout their history they’ve never, ever made it easy to be their fans. This ownership has delivered four World Series championships and for that fans will be forever grateful, but they haven’t made it easy on anyone in doing so. Monday morning was no exception.