FORT MYERS, Fla. — At last, the Red Sox’ long national nightmare is over.
Six days after news first broke of a Mookie Betts trade to the Dodgers — with the time in between filled with fan backlash and reports over the original deal falling apart because of medical reviews — a reworked version finally became official Monday night. The Red Sox dealt Betts, their homegrown star who has become one of the best players in baseball, David Price and cash considerations to the Dodgers for young outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs, an infielder, and Connor Wong, a catcher.
“We knew it would hurt, and it’s going to hurt for a little while,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said Monday night at Fenway South, less than 48 hours before the first workout for pitchers and catchers at spring training. “As difficult as it was, and as difficult as it continues to be emotionally, we felt that where this trade positions us in terms of the big picture, in terms of our long-term future, was a large enough step forward that despite being difficult, it was something we needed to do.”
The Red Sox entered the offseason hoping to get under the luxury-tax threshold after having baseball’s highest payroll last season at an estimated $242 million, per Fangraphs. Betts, a pending free agent, was set to make $27 million this season while Price has three years and $96 million left on his contract. The Red Sox are reportedly paying half of the money left on Price’s contract, but the trade will allow them to reset their luxury tax, allowing for more flexibility in the future.
Despite the salary dump that sent their best player packing for Los Angeles, Bloom insisted the organization still believes it can compete in 2020.
“We think it is realistic,” said Bloom, who was hired from the Rays in October. “Now look, what Mookie and David are capable of on the field is a lot. I certainly think it’s reasonable to expect that we’re going to be worse without them. But we have real good talent coming back, we’ve added talent to the roster this winter, and I think it’s important to point out — we felt at the beginning of the winter that this team had a lot more talent on it than the 84 wins it put up last year. We still think there’s plenty of talent here to compete.”
The initial iteration of the trade, which became public once it was agreed upon last week, included the Red Sox getting hard-throwing pitcher Brusdar Graterol from the Twins as part of a three-team trade. But after a medical review, the Red Sox reportedly viewed Graterol as more of a reliever than a starting pitcher, which led to the revamped deal that subtracted Graterol and added Downs and Wong.
Verdugo is expected to replace Betts in right field while Downs, a top-100 prospect, could be Boston’s second baseman of the future. But that won’t be much solace to the fans in Boston, who have seen their team win four of the past 16 World Series.
“The big picture and how this fits into our chances to win as much as we can over the course of the next number of years, that had to take precedence,” Bloom said. “You can’t be afraid to do something that you think is right in the big picture.”