In his play The Tempest, Shakespeare wrote, “What’s past is prologue”. I can’t prove it, but I believe that “The Bard” had the Red Sox in mind when he penned that quote 400 years ago.
On January 23, 1981, the Red Sox traded my favorite player, centerfielder Fred Lynn, to the California Angels because they could not re-sign him to a long term contract. Lynn was a smooth, five-tool player who in six seasons with the Red Sox won a league MVP, Rookie of the Year and four Gold Gloves. In addition, he was elected to six-straight All-Star Games.
At the time of the trade, I was a senior in high school. My idealism was destroyed. 39 years later, I’m close to being a senior citizen and the Red Sox’ stupidity has struck again.
Recently, they traded their best all-around player of my lifetime, Mookie Betts, to the L.A. Dodgers for a league-average outfielder (Alex Verdugo), a solid if not spectacular middle infield prospect (Jeter Downs) and a low-level catching prospect (Connor Wong). The Red Sox also sent often disgruntled pitcher David Price to the Dodgers. Boston will pay half of the remaining three years and $96 million that Price is owed.
Both trades were/are one-sided with the Red Sox getting a return of 40 cents on the dollar. In 1981, the return for the soon to be 29-year-old Lynn was two past-their-prime players in Joe Rudi and Frank Tanana. The Betts deal is bringing the Red Sox three suspects rather than three prospects. But, the biggest difference between 1981 and 2020 is the financial situation of the Red Sox.
Nearly four decades ago, the Red Sox were owned by Jean Yawkey and were only a few years away from the laughable ownership of Haywood Sullivan. They were an incompetent mom and pop operation. The current Red Sox are a cash cow. Owner John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group, which includes the Red Sox, Liverpool FC of the EPL, 50% of Roush Racing and 80% of the New England Sports Network, is valued at $6.6 billion.
The trade and salary dump will save the Red Sox $43 million this year, which will allow them to get below the $208 million competitive balance tax (luxury tax).
Conflicting reports detail that Betts is looking for a 12 year/$420 million contract, which is in line with baseball’s best player, Mike Trout. I, and many others, can argue that Betts is the 2nd best all-around player in baseball.
The Red Sox were reportedly willing to commit to 10 years/$300 million to keep Betts.
So, the difference is $5 million per year as well as two additional years. A compromise could have been 11 years/$360 million. Also, the Red Sox could have back-loaded the deal so they could get under the CBT in 2020.
From the outside looking in, it appears that Betts and the Red Sox were unwilling to move off of their demands. The Red Sox reached a crossroads on Betts and were left with the option of “to be, or not to be”? Unfortunately, they chose not to be.
John Sapochetti is co-host of “The Sap & Kat Show” which is heard on Full Press Radio.
Follow him on twitter @johnsap25