FORT MYERS, Fla. — After a remarkable spending spree this offseason, the Red Sox ownership group could not avoid questions of finance Saturday in camp.
Principal owner John Henry said that he doesn't view the signing of Carl Crawford and others and the possible extension of Adrian Gonzalez as a renewal of commitment. The club has always paid big money in an effort to win, he said, citing that the payroll has been second to the New York Yankees every year of the group's tenure.
This offseason, however, the Red Sox did pull a bit closer to the Yankees, this just a year after Boston already made a big jump in payroll, more than 30 percent, to put together the 2010 team.
Henry said that this year really isn't as different from last in terms of the ownership's philosophy.
"I don't think there was any need for us to show a commitment," he said. "We went into the  year thinking we were very strong. Looking back, if we didn’t have the scope and depth of injuries I believe we would've made it to the World Series."
Despite what most people would think, the group doesn't feel a need to compare itself to New York, at least not on the long term. The Yankees will do what they have to do, and the Sox will do the same, said president and CEO Larry Lucchino.
Still, it's impossible to not be aware.
"It takes two to tango. You don't know where they're going to go or what they're going to do," Lucchino said. "We do know that we have an intense rivalry with these guys. We've got to be aggressive with our finances. We're willing to do that."
The two rivals were the only teams to pay a luxury tax last season and the Red Sox also shelled out more than $85 million in revenue sharing. Teams in small markets have been targeted by Major League Baseball and urged to spend more of the money that trickles down from the big boys.
That some have seemingly been slow to do so is an issue worth exploring at the next round of collective bargaining discussions, according to Lucchino.
"The Red Sox think there is an opportunity here for reform of the system and we hope Major League Baseball will take advantage of that situation," he said.
Asked if he thinks about the impact of heavy spending by the Red Sox on small-market teams, especially after a costly offseason, Lucchino — who worked in Baltimore and San Diego — indicated his team is only working within the current confines.
"We were focusing on the needs we had," he said. "We finished in third place last year. We kept reminding ourselves we were in third place last year and things had to be done…There was both a need and an opportunity to do things either by trade or free agency.
"You can play by the rules to make your franchise better. I don't think that we set the bar this past year. It was set before we were active in the market for 2010-2011, and we played in that market."