The Boston Red Sox’s approach to their 2020 payroll remains a hot-button topic.
Although principal owner John Henry indicated at the beginning of the offseason the Red Sox were aiming to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold for the upcoming season, the team’s brass since has clarified that those efforts constitute a “goal” rather than a “mandate” as Boston builds its roster.
Chaim Bloom, who was hired as the Red Sox’s new chief baseball officer back in October, added more context Wednesday at Fenway Park after the club held a press conference in wake of mutually parting ways with manager Alex Cora.
“No, nothing’s changed with that, but I think it’s important to clarify, and I think this has gotten lost in the shuffle sometimes: The goal to get under the CBT (Competitive Balance Tax) is not an end in itself,” Bloom told reporters, per MLB.com “It fits within the larger goal of making sure that we are as competitive as possible over the long haul.”
The Red Sox’s payroll crunch has led to rampant speculation regarding the futures of several well-paid players, including Mookie Betts, who reportedly is set to earn $27 million in 2020 before becoming a free agent next winter. Bloom said Wednesday he anticipates Betts being in Boston’s Opening Day lineup, however, which syncs with team president Sam Kennedy’s earlier insistence the Red Sox plan to contend in the American League East this season.
Boston’s effort to squeeze beneath the $208 million mark stems from a desire to avoid the steep penalties that would come from exceeding the luxury tax threshold for a third consecutive season, as those penalties would have the potential to turn a one-year problem into a long-term issue.
“Our fans deserve a competitive product year-in, year-out, and regardless of your budget, it is near impossible to deliver that unless you focus on the big picture, unless you focus on both the present and the future, and so accomplishing that, using your resources effectively is part of accomplishing that goal,” Bloom said.
“And so as far as that’s going to help us do that, help us compete as often as possible for as long as possible, that’s the goal we’re going to pursue, but we’re not doing it as an end itself. We will attempt to do it in a way that’s consistent with that larger goal.”
As it stands, the Red Sox must trim $20 million or so from their current payroll, leading to rumors involving Betts, David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr., among others. Ultimately, Boston might need to trade from its major league roster, which could be a tough pill to swallow in the short term.
It’s worth noting other big-market teams, including the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, have reset the luxury tax in recent years, so the Red Sox aren’t exactly venturing down an unexplored path, as unfamiliar and unsettling as the current situation might seem.