Don’t Blame Boston

Red Sox fans were outraged. Why would you trade away your best player, a top 5 player in the league? It’s Boston, why can’t we pay him? Why are we rebuilding after winning the World Series in 2018?

The Boston Red Sox traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong. The deal was completed with a trade with the Twins, where the Dodgers received Brusdar Graterol, Luke Raley, and the 67th pick in the 2020 draft, and the Twins got Kenta Maeda and a Minor Leaguer to be named later.

I completely understand the feelings of the Boston fans. Nobody is ever going to be happy when their team trades away their best player, especially when that player is of MVP caliber. But they can’t look at this in a vacuum. There are good reasons for why this happened.

The big question is: why did the Boston Red Sox trade Mookie Betts, a star in his prime? It’s complicated, so let’s start at the beginning. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2018, led by Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, David Price, Andrew Benintendi, Nathan Eovaldi, and Xander Bogaerts. With a great young manager, Alex Cora, they seemed primed to be a top team for the next few years. Then Dave Dombrowski happened.

Dave Dombrowski was the general manager of the Red Sox. He is the man who gave Nathan Eovaldi a 4-year, $68 million deal. Eovaldi performed spectacularly in the World Series, but he was known to be injury-prone, and it was a very small sample size, so why did he deserve that contract?

Dombrowski also gave Chris Sale a 5-year, $145 million deal, after we had just seen his fastball velocity drop significantly, and there were concerns about his health. He is an ace at times, but this was a risky deal.

David Price signed a 7-year, $217 million deal with Boston in 2015. Guess who gave out that deal? Dombrowski. Xander Bogaerts signed a 6-year, $120 million deal after the World Series run. Who shelled out that contract? You guessed it.

Those four deals add up to $550 million total, and $97 million annually. The MLB salary cap for 2019 was $206 million. To have almost half of that tied up in injury-prone pitchers and a good shortstop, none of whom are better than Betts, is ridiculous. It’s the reason he is no longer their GM.

The point is, the people making the argument that the Red Sox made a mistake trading Betts are not looking at the big picture. There was NO WAY they could keep Betts. It doesn’t matter that its Boston. If you pay that much money to the players the Red Sox did, it doesn’t matter what market you’re in, you can’t afford a $400 million superstar like Betts.

This move might have salvaged the future of the Red Sox. They dumped David Price money on the Dodgers. They got a major league starter with star potential in Alex Verdugo. They got a top-100 prospect in Jeter Downs. They got a catching prospect, which is never a bad position to have, in Connor Wong. The Red Sox, mainly Dombrowski, ruined their chance at an extended run of excellence. Now they are in damage control, and got the most out of it.

The timing of this might just work out for the Red Sox. Verdugo will likely hit his prime in a few years, about the same time as the Dombrowski deals are off the books. Hopefully some of their top prospects will be coming to the majors at that time. The Yankees are clearly a powerhouse right now. The Rays are probably better than the Red Sox, too. Even if they could’ve paid Betts, they would still just be fighting for a Wild Card spot. This move allows them to possibly pull off a mini rebuild, and be good again as the Rays or Yankees start declining.

Red Sox fans who were angered by this move have a right to be angry, but not about the trade. The trade had to happen. Their anger should be directed towards the past moves that put them here, but that can’t be changed. Instead, they should buy an Alex Verdugo jersey, hope the Yankees don’t win the World Series, and keep checking that Top 100 prospects list.