In the evening hours of Monday, February 10th, the Boston Red Sox announced a trade deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that included saying goodbye to 2018 American League MVP and beloved homegrown ballplayer, Mookie Betts. The trade also included starting pitcher David Price who has been with the Sox since 2016. In return, the Red Sox gained Center Fielder Alex Verdugo, Shortstop Jeter Downs, and Catcher Connor Wong.
After weeks of rumors, the trade of the Right Fielder still came as a shock to Red Sox fans. After David Ortiz’s retirement in 2016, many fans turned to Betts as their favorite player and he quickly became the face of the team. According to ESPN, in the days after the announcement of his trade, ticket sales for the upcoming season have reportedly dropped 15% compared to where they were at this point in the 2019 season.
Fans have turned their anger over the trade to those in charge of the clubhouse, most notably towards the Principal Owner, John Henry. In an effort to calm the rising tensions, Henry took to social media where he explained the difficult reasons behind the trade. He explained that “while the organization in its entirety very much wanted to see Mookie in a Red Sox uniform for the length of his career, we believe in this decision as we are responsible and accountable for both the present and the future of the Red Sox. We cannot shy away from tough decisions required to aggressively compete for the World Series.”
With all this in mind, Betts will also be up for free agency next season which poses significant economic factors to be taken into consideration. The Red Sox had reportedly presented him with a 10 year contract for $300 million to which he countered with 12 years and $420 million. Had either of those deals been taken, a different team with more monetary freedom could have easily picked Betts up at the beginning of his free agency which would have left the Red Sox scrounging to come compensate for those lost funds.
In the aforementioned statement, Henry also commented on this. He wrote that “in today’s game, there’s a cost to losing a great player in free agency, one that cannot nearly be made up by the draft pick given. We felt we could not sit on our hands and lose him this off-season without getting value in return to help us on our path forward.” Red Sox President, Sam Kennedy, also chimed in on this mentioning that it would be difficult for Boston to keep both Betts and Designated Hitter J.D. Martinez – both players with incredible talent and high salary costs.
With any major controversy, there are always theories that come with it. Many fans have speculated that the trade of Betts could be an effort to correct their mistake of trading away pitcher Jon Lester in 2014. According to ESPN, the Red Sox reportedly only offered Lester roughly $70 million for 4 years. Having just helped the team to a World Series win in 2013, this offer from the Sox was incredibly low. Seeing as how Lester would be up for free agency in the following season, fans speculated that they would give him the low offer and then pick him up during the draft to save them economically.
Whether this was purely speculation or the teams actual plan, Lester was picked up by the Chicago Cubs and carried them to a World Series win in 2016. In the season following his trade, the Sox went 78-84 after just winning the World Series with Lester on their roster the previous season. Needless to say, the Lester situation was disastrous for Boston and placed the Sox in a very trying position.
Whether or not this was an attempt at a clever ploy to re-sign Betts in the future, Red Sox fans are not happy. Boston just traded one of the best players in baseball for what doesn’t seem like much in return. Though it likely will prove to be a strategic move from an economic standpoint, they just let someone on the short list of the game’s elite players walk away with only potential prospects in return.
This is yet another move by Boston that many see as moving backwards. Similar to the season after their 2013 World Series win, after they won the World Series in 2018, they placed 3rd in the AL East in 2019. They’re developing a pattern of see-sawing back and forth between being the best team in baseball and one of the worst, which, if you’re a member of one of the wealthiest teams in the MLB, is not a situation you’d choose to be in. With the Sox just entering the beginning of their spring training, there’s no telling how the absence of Betts will affect their regular season, but so far, fans are not optimistic.
So long, Mook. Thanks for everything.