It’s a surreal feeling to watch it all suddenly unfold this week, but here we are. The Red Sox – just two years after winning 108 games and the World Series – have traded 27-year-old right-fielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with starter David Price.
Make no mistake: this was a salary dump. If Price being attached to the deal doesn’t convince you of that, nothing will. The Red Sox wanted to escape the league’s luxury tax after they owed Major League Baseball $12 million last year, and surrendered their best position player in decades to do so.
Red Sox general manager Chaim Bloom inherited a tough financial situation, but it would be insane to let him off the hook.
Trading Betts undercuts every effort to compete next season. It’s a a greedy, self-defeating sacrifice to avoid tax penalties. And it prioritizes money over winning baseball games and keeping a homegrown superstar.
Betts is the second-best player in baseball
To put things in perspective, Bloom didn’t just trade away his best player, he traded arguably the second-best player in all of baseball – in a salary dump.
At the very least, Betts is a top-five player in the sport. He won MVP in 2018 and played an instrumental role in their World Series run that year. Since he entered the league six seasons ago, Betts has been the Red Sox’s best player by a wide margin. Pay him and figure out the rest.
Bloom got fleeced – there’s just no other way to frame this. It’s difficult to justify trading your best player. It’s impossible to justify trading a player like Betts.
Not only that, but the Red Sox will still pay half of David Price’s $31 million salary. Forget Alex Verdugo and the return. There was no reason for this trade to happen. Luxury tax or not.
Trading a homegrown superstar is the type of move you expect from the Tampa Bay Rays – Bloom’s former team. In Boston – a team that has spent the most money in baseball for the last two years – that’s an unforgivable misuse of resources.
Nothing changes a team more than losing its best player. In this case, the Red Sox essentially took themselves out of the American League East three-team race. If Bloom held onto Betts and Price and loaded up at the deadline, they had a good shot to compete with the Yankees and Rays and make a deep playoff run this fall.
After the trade, RotoChamp projects them to finish with just 84 wins – a 9-win drop and a full 20 wins behind the Yankees.
Even if Betts didn’t re-sign, and wanted to test the market after this season, the Red Sox should have aimed for a World Series run in his contract season instead of blowing it up and starting a bridge year. With Betts gone, Bloom wants to reset the luxury tax and shift to 2021.
Heading into 2020, the Red Sox still have an above-average roster and a young team overall. But J.D. Martinez could opt out after this season, and they have no fifth starter or reliable fourth starter. Bloom has work to do, and the pressure is on.
I can’t imagine a situation where the Red Sox don’t look back on this trade as a huge mistake. All there is to do now is hope for the best if Betts hits free-agency next winter.