It must be a hard time to be a Boston Red Sox fan. The troubles began with Alex Cora, the team’s manager for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Cora and the Red Sox recently parted ways because he was found to be implicated in the Astros’ cheating scandal during the 2017 season when he was working as the teams bench coach. In an investigation conducted by Major League baseball, the Astros were found to be guilty of stealing signs from the catchers throughout the entire season. Cora was discovered to be very influential in orchestrating this scheme. The cheating has raised such indignation because the Astros won the World Series in 2017, a result that perhaps would not have happened if they did not cheat. Cora left the Astros the following year to manage the Red Sox. Suspiciously, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2018, and there is a current investigation onto the team. In other words, there is a chance that Cora brought his cheating ways to the Red Sox.
We must reflect on the measures taken in order to win. Recent events have revealed that those lengths can even include cheating. These lengths have also been the dramatic spending of money. Big spending has been the recipe to Red Sox winning in the past two decades. With World Series wins in 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018 there’s no denying that the Red Sox have found consistent success. They’ve found this success in part by signing free agents to record breaking contracts. Most recently, David Price comes to mind with his seven-year $217 million contract, and J.D. Martínez with his five-year $110 million contract. I do not mean to say the Red Sox did not have home grown talent. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, left fielder Andrew Benintendi, third basemen Rafael Devers are examples of the Red Sox farm system. I acknowledge I’m leaving out an important name, Mookie Betts. It’s clear that the Red Sox recipe to success was the development of players combined with the ability to sign big name free agents to huge contracts. However, the Mookie Betts trade marks a dramatic divergence from the Red Sox’s unfailing commitment to winning at all costs. Quite literally at all costs.
In a trade that was completed on Monday, the Red Sox sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox return in this trade were Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. The true motivation for the trade was saving money by getting underneath the luxury tax threshold. If a team’s payroll is over $208 million in 2020, they have to pay a tax. The Red Sox had been above the luxury tax for the past two years. That meant that every dollar spent above the limit in 2020 would have been taxed 50%.
The trade off-loaded David Price’s enormous contract, but they also sacrificed one of the Red Sox’s most promising young players, Mookie Betts. At only 27, Betts had already won an MVP in 2018 and has a bright future ahead. So why did the Red Sox trade him? It was an economic decision.
I believe the Red Sox will be competitive in 2020. However, they will not be competing for a World Series they would have if they hadn’t shipped off David Price and Mookie Betts. Thus, we must return to the question about the lengths professional sports teams go to in order to win. Some teams cheat. Some teams spend millions upon millions of dollars. Perhaps both of these strategies are morally suspect. In the past month, it seems like the Red Sox are trying to turn over a new leaf. They have disassociated themselves from cheating as much as possible and they have relieved a financial burden. One can respect these decisions, but we must remain vigilant to the connotations surrounding this team’s winning the past couple years.