That we knew this day was coming doesn’t make it hurt any less.
When the Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations in 2015, team executives — and attentive Boston fans — knew of his approach to roster building: Assemble as many talented, high-priced players as you can, win now, and worry about the financial ramifications later.
Eventually, however, big contracts weigh heavy on the minds of ownership. Then comes the fire sale, and everything must go.
But did it have to be Mookie?
Marcus Lynn Betts, drafted by the Red Sox out of high school in 2011, is a generational talent who can beat you at the plate, in the field, or on the basepaths. He’s an ebullient personality and a heck of a bowler, too. And now it appears he’s on his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with pitcher David Price, in a money-saving deal.
Since his first full season in the majors in 2014, Betts has been an All Star four times and has won four Gold Gloves. He’s been in the top 10 in voting for American League Most Valuable Player four times, winning it after an otherworldly season in 2018.
But Betts is due to be a free agent at the end of this year, and he wants to see what he can earn on the open market, as is his right. If he stays injury-free and has a “regular” Mookie season, he could command somewhere around $40 million a year for 10 to 12 years.
Rather than pay that price, or risk him signing elsewhere, the Sox chose to ship him out early for the proverbial handful of beans.
Red Sox fans have always been willing to pay more — more for a ticket, more for a foam finger, more for a hot dog — if it meant Boston would field a competitive team. So there’s little sympathy for management here — we know the cost of attendance isn’t going down this season just because the salaries of Price and Betts are off the books. It remains to be seen whether fans will pay $10 for a Fenway beer while watching a watered-down team.
It is difficult not to compare the move with the departure of Carlton Fisk, the perennial All Star catcher the Sox broomed out the door in 1980, after he lobbied for more money. Fisk went on to cement his Hall of Fame career with the Chicago White Sox. Like Pudge, Betts will soon be burnishing his Hall credentials elsewhere.
Hopefully, Betts’ 50 will someday join Fisk’s 27 in the ranks of retired Red Sox numbers. It would be the least the team could do to thank an exceptional player and its loyal fans.