How on Earth did the Boston Red Sox convince themselves trading Mookie Betts was a good idea? How did they watch him play for the last six seasons and decide he wasn't worth keeping? It's a mystery that will likely never be solved.
Since the day he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Betts has done nothing but make the Red Sox look like idiots for giving him away. That was never more clear than in Game 1 of the 2020 World Series Tuesday night.
Betts' fingerprints were all over LA's 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. He finished the night 2-for-4, with a home run, two stolen bases and a walk, showing off his incredible power/speed combination along with outstanding plate discipline. It's what we've come to expect from him every time he takes the field.
The Red Sox had one of the best players in baseball and traded him away. They had drafted and developed a generational talent who could impact a game like few in Major League Baseball, and they actively shopped him. Boston's general manager Brian O'Halloran and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom succeeded before the start of this season.
On February 10, 2020, the Red Sox sent Betts, cash considerations and David Price's rotting carcass (and contract) to the Dodgers in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong and Jeter Downs. The Sox made the move to give themselves financial flexibility and avoid the luxury tax, after all Betts was headed into the final year of his contract and was set to command a massive deal in free agency. And yes, that last sentence is one of the dumbest things I've ever typed.
One of the biggest, most lucrative organizations in baseball had a homegrown superstar and they traded him for pennies on the dollar to gain "financial flexibility." I'm asking this in all seriousness: were they high?
It was a truly mind-boggling move that hasn't made a lick of sense since the day it was consummated. The Red Sox easily could have afforded the 12-year, $365 million deal the Dodgers eventually gave Betts. The franchise is worth $3.3 billion and made $519 million 2019. Betts' contract would have been a blip on Boston's balance sheet. Besides, if there's one guy the Red Sox should have broken the bank for, it's Mookie Betts.
If the Sox didn't pay up because they thought Betts' best days were behind him, they were dead wrong about the 28-year-old. He's had a monster 2020 season and has only continued to dazzle in the playoffs. Betts finished the regular season slashing .292/.366/.562 (.928 OPS), with 16 home runs and 39 RBI. His fWAR of 3.0 was fourth in baseball and he's well on his way to a fifth Gold Glove and fourth Silver Slugger.
In the postseason, Betts is slashing .327/.424/.510 (.934), with one home run, six RBI and 12 runs scored. He's also made a number of ridiculous defensive plays to save runs.
It's not like we didn't expect this from Betts. The Red Sox unloaded a guy who had won and MVP and a World Series for their franchise. He was the franchise's best homegrown talent since Carl Yastrzemski. They had a goose that laid golden eggs on a near-nightly basis and they showed him the door for financial reasons. Hey guys? Financial flexibility doesn't win you titles, players like Mookie Betts do.
Trading the lovable cornerstone of the franchise and one of MLB's top three players was a blunder of epic proportions. The deal will almost certainly haunt the franchise for years to come.
For the next decade, Red Sox fans will stare wistfully towards the West Coast and wonder what might have been. Betts could have patrolled right field at Fenway Park and guarded Pesky's Pole for the rest of his career. Instead he's in Dodger blue and on the verge of another World Series title.
But hey, at least the Red Sox have that invaluable financial flexibility working for them.