Speaking for myself, my principal issue is the bolded. The Red Sox were not in any way, shape, or form, a rebuilding organization, and it's ridiculous to suggest so. They were one year removed from their greatest season in team history, with a team filled with with homegrown stars just entering their primes. Having the privilege to root for a team like that is the single best reason to become a fan in the first place. It's the single best reason to own a baseball team in the first place. And then they tore it down, because, despite the fact that an MLB team is a guaranteed money-maker, partially funded by tax-payer dollars, that exponentially increases in value without the need for ownership to invest one single cent of its own capital, they didn't feel like paying the luxury tax.
Bloom and Henry chose to become a rebuilding organization when they traded Mookie. It was a deliberate choice, and their choice alone.
After the incredible 2018 season, the Sox decided to "keep the band together" by re-signing Eovaldi (4/68) and Pearce (1/6.25) and picking up Sale's option. They then signed a bunch of guys to one-year deals to avoid arbitration (including Mookie). Then in March of 2019, they extended Sale (5/145). They clearly were trying to keep the team together for one more run, at least. They made an evaluation that Chris Sale was worth the extension, and not only worth it, was a crucial piece moving forward. The cons of that extension were that Sale had declined in September in previous years, and only pitched in 27 games in 2018, clearly dealing with injury issues. The pros of that extension were that Sale had put up these numbers while with Boston in two seasons: 29-12, 2.56 era, 2.25 fip, 175 era+, 0.92 whip, 13.2 k/9, and had helped them win a World Series, and had just turned 29 (so not like signing a 34 year old guy).
They made a judgment that Sale was integral to the future of the team and they wanted to lock him up NOW.
It was a questionable decision, due to the cons I just listed above. But it was defensible, given his on-field performance. Obviously that extension has NOT been a good one, but we didn't know all THIS would happen.
Anyway, they kept the band together for 2019 but that 2019 season was a disaster, compared to 2018. Sale put up a 4.40 era. Mookie went from being otherworldly to merely being really really good. JD's performance dropped. Porcello fell off a cliff. The one key 2018 cog that wasn't re-signed was Kimbrel, but Workman filled in admirably (10 w, 16 sv, 1.88 era, 13.1 k/9).
And then Mookie's contract was up, and what was the team to do? They were up agains the luxury tax. Whether we like it or not, that WAS a consideration for Boston. Just like it is for virtually every team. The Sox owed the largest luxury tax bill in MLB history for the 2019 season, and clearly were reluctant to get hit with another luxury tax bill for 2020, when instead of paying 30% tax, it would go up to 50%. Plus draft pick penalties. Even the Yankees needed (or chose to enter into) a luxury tax reset recently.
"Exceeding the threshold for a third straight season would’ve put the Yankees in line for the maximum repeater penalty (a 50% tax on every dollar spent over $210MM), and that was a price that the team was simply not willing to pay. With this in mind, the Yankees still did well to acquire the likes of Anthony Rizzo
and Joey Gallo
in midseason trades while staying under the CBT threshold, yet the idea of the big-budget Yankees operating under self-imposed spending restrictions didn’t sit well in the Big Apple.
The Yankees also dipped under the tax line in 2018 in order to reset their penalty status, and then were back to their usual higher-spending selves in both 2019 and 2020. On paper, this could mean the Bronx Bombers will be ready and willing to throw some cash around this winter, particularly since the CBT rules could be changed altogether depending on how baseball’s next collective bargaining agreement shakes out."
Even the Dodgers have reset their luxury tax penalties.
"The Dodgers had two goals they set out to accomplish in 2018. The first one is to win the World Series, which remains a work in progress with approximately two weeks left in the regular season. Their second goal was to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million to reset their penalties for consecutive years above the threshold before this year’s mega free agent class.
It appears that the Dodgers have accomplished their secondary goal for this season as they are currently at about $182
million dollars and while that number will go up when players meet incentives, it will not go up more than fifteen million dollars. One of those players is Kenta Maeda who will meet at least one of his innings completed incentives.
MLB’s luxury tax threshold does increase
each season and next year is the biggest jump for a while as the threshold increases from $197 million to $206 million. So why did the Dodgers care so much about resetting their tax penalties? After three consecutive seasons exceeding the threshold, the Dodgers would have to pay a 50% tax for every dollar they are over the tax threshold.
By resetting their penalties this season, that number will now be a 20% tax for the Dodgers if they go over the luxury tax threshold next season. It basically buys the Dodgers a few seasons they can go over the the threshold without paying a whopping 50% tax and there were rumors
that MLB mandated the Dodgers to comply with the tax threshold.
The other penalty for exceeding the tax threshold by $40 million or more this season is the loss of draft pick position. The Dodgers’ front office is all about keeping a strong farm system and developing their own talent rather than always spending big bucks and possibly running into free agent busts. They would rather pay money than lose draft pick position, but by cutting their payroll, they won’t have to worry about any draft pick issues next year."
So it's perfectly "normal" even for a big-spending team like Boston to want to reset their financials for luxury tax purposes. Their choice to spend on Chris Sale - and some dead money on previous bad deals - put them in a position to make a tough decision regarding Betts. And we don't need to rehash the fact that Betts had made it clear he was going to free agency (but we will anyway), which meant that the Sox' efforts to re-sign him to an expensive but not ludicrous deal weren't going to work. They'd have to pay full free agent prices to keep him (or, technically, bring him back once he hit free agency).
In fact, even the Dodgers knew he was going to hit free agency, but were willing to make the splash for 2020 anyway. Of course, nobody saw the pandemic coming. Look at this article from a Dodgers' perspective in 2020:
"You may have heard that MLB and the MLBPA came to an agreement
regarding, among other things, service time for players this season. With the season realistically in doubt, something had to be done.
This agreement gives players a full year of service time, regardless of how long the 2020 season is. There could be no games and players would get a full year of service time. This is different for fringe-roster players who may shuttle between the minors and majors, but that certainly doesn’t pertain to Mookie Betts
, which is what Dodger fans are truly wondering about.
There’s a real chance Betts doesn’t suit up for the Dodgers in a regular season game before hitting free agency this winter, and folks are concerned that the Dodgers gave up Alex Verdugo
, Jeter Downs
and Connor Wong
for almost nothing — they still got David Price
for half of his remaining contract, while also landing Brusdar Graterol
and a draft pick in the upcoming abbreviated draft for Kenta Maeda
. After all, the Dodgers would be in line to end up with minimal value from Betts, as they would be in line to collect just a compensatory draft pick that would come after the fourth round of (a loaded) 2021 MLB Draft.
But there was always a nearly 100 percent chance Betts was going to be a free agent next offseason. The only thing that has changed — and it’s a biggie — is that we’re dealing with a pandemic that has altered out way of life for the foreseeable future
The pandemic comes and everything changes, and Betts decides to accept the Dodgers' offer of an extension instead of testing the now-uncertain waters of free agency. That makes the Sox look really, really bad though, because hey, why couldn't THEY have extended Betts? Why not? Because when he was still with them, there was no pandemic, and Betts was looking at a Mike Trout kind of contract, which - as I just outlined above - the Sox weren't willing to do. Not even the Dodgers saw the pandemic coming, with its massive impact on baseball (among other things, obviously). They took a chance to trade for him even knowing that he was going to free agency. It was the pandemic that allowed them to extend him for a reasonable price. Betts was never taking THAT extension from Boston.
So yeah, long, long story short, they WERE rebuilding after the 2019 season. Big time. They had traded a lot of prospects. They had signed some guys to big contracts, but also some guys were gone. They had tough decisions to make, partly as a price to pay for trying to keep the band together, partly due to the desire/need to get under the luxury tax, and partly because some of the decisions they made with other guys turned out to be pretty bad ones.
It was a perfect storm - including the timing of it all - of suck. But yeah, they were rebuilding. Absolutely they were rebuilding. From top to bottom in the organization, they were rebuilding.