Red Sox

John Henry insists Mookie Betts trade wasn't driven by desire to cut payroll

John Henry insists Mookie Betts trade wasn't driven by desire to cut payroll

The Boston Red Sox continue to do damage control after trading away their franchise player.

Many have criticized the Red Sox for dumping outfielder Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price on the Los Angeles Dodgers as a means to get under Major League Baseball's competitive balance tax for 2020.

Principal owner John Henry has deep pockets, after all -- Forbes recently listed his Fenway Sports Group empire as the third-wealthiest sports group in the world at $6.6 billion -- so why couldn't the club shell out a little more money to sign Betts to an extension before he hit free agency in 2021?

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In a recent interview with The Boston Globe's Michael Silverman, Henry defended the team's decision to trade Betts and insisted critics are too focused on his September 2019 comments admitting the Red Sox need to be under the CBT in 2020.

"You’re hung up on CBT," Henry told Silverman. "You see this and I think the media, too, to some extent, ever since we mentioned that clubs have a tendency to get below CBT once in a while."

"It’s surprising that anyone would think we would outspend every other team in baseball every single year. To me, that’s a little surprising. Clubs have to make difficult decisions, and one of the biggest decisions they have to make is, ‘Do we potentially let a great player walk away for very little compensation?’ That’s one of the decisions that you have to make irrespective of CBT – it has nothing to do with CBT."

The Red Sox paid a $13.4 million luxury tax bill for 2019 after boasting the highest payroll in baseball and haven't ranked lower than fifth in spending among MLB clubs under Henry's tenure.

They're not always the highest-spending club, though: Boston has topped the CBT 10 times in the last 17 years, while the rival New York Yankees have exceeded the CBT in every year during that span.

But Henry insisted the luxury tax was "only an element" in trading Betts, and that the Red Sox' return of outfielder Alex Verdugo, infield prospect Jeter Downs and catcher prospect Connor Wong will be better for the club in the long run.

"Maybe you and others at this point undervalue the baseball side of the deal," Henry told Silverman. "We have balance, and not just this year."

That "balance" likely won't lead to more wins in 2020, but Henry seems adamant trading Betts was the right move for the franchise in the long-term -- financials notwithstanding.

WATCH: Alex Verdugo notches first home run with Red Sox

WATCH: Alex Verdugo notches first home run with Red Sox

Alex Verdugo tallied his first home run with the Boston Red Sox during Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Verdugo's homer was a two-run shot in the fourth inning off of Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough that gave Boston the lead.

Watch below:


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Verdugo was, of course, acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 24-year-old hit .294 with 12 homers in 106 games with L.A. last year.

With home run No. 1 out of the way, Red Sox fans will hope to see many more where that came from during Verdugo's tenure in Boston.

Incredible stat shows how historically awful Red Sox starting pitching has been

Incredible stat shows how historically awful Red Sox starting pitching has been

When the 2019 MLB season started, the defending World Series champion Red Sox boasted an impressive rotation.

Perennial Cy Young contender Chris Sale. Former Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello. World Series hero Nathan Eovaldi. Eduardo Rodriguez, who would go on to win 19 games.

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But the 2020 Sox rotation is a far cry from that collection of talent. 

Instead, with Sale sidelined with Tommy John surgery, Price and Porcello on different teams, and Rodriguez out for the season with myocarditis, the Sox have been forced to rely on a flotsam and jetsam rotation that has been exposed as not MLB-worthy.

Through 11 games, the Red Sox have already used seven starting pitchers, and they've combined to allow a whopping 32 earned runs in 42.2 innings pitched, often putting the Sox in early deficits they've been unable to overcome. It all adds up to a 6.75 ERA, which isn't just bad; it's actually on pace to be the worst starting rotation in the last 120 years, according to Boston Sports Info.

Only Nathan Eovaldi with a 3.94 ERA in three starts and Austin Brice, who pitched one scoreless inning in his only start of the season as an opener, have ERAs below 5.00, while Josh Osich, Ryan Weber, Matt Hall and Zack Godley all have ERAs of 9-plus.

Pitcher ERA as starter
Austin Brice 0.00
Nathan Eovaldi 3.94
Martin Perez 5.06
Josh Osich 9.00
Matt Hall 10.13
Ryan Weber 11.57
Zack Godley 13.50

And with the supposedly strong Boston offense underachieving through 11 games, it's no wonder the team is off to a horrific 3-8 start, the 28th best record out of 30 MLB teams. If that starting pitching doesn't turn around — and turn around quickly — the Red Sox are in danger of digging a hole that will be too deep to climb out of in a shortened 60-game season.