FORT MYERS, Fla. – Red Sox owner John Henry says he knows why Boston fans are angry the team traded Mookie Betts.
“When I say I understand how many of you feel about this trade with the Dodgers, I know many of you — particularly our youngest fans — are disbelieving or angry or sad about it. I know it’s difficult and disappointing,” Henry said Monday, reading from a statement on the first day of full-team workouts.
Henry answered questions for about 30 minutes along with chairman Tom Werner and team president Sam Kennedy. Half of them addressed the trade of Betts and David Price to Los Angeles for outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects: infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong. Boston will send $96 million to the Dodgers, which matches half of the $96 million owed to Price for the next three seasons, and shed itself of Betts' $27 million salary for this year.
“This trade gives us a lot of flexibility,’ Werner said. “We have made unpopular trades — not all of them have worked out right.”
The trio tried to downplay it as a salary dump, even though it dropped Boston's projected luxury tax payroll below the $208 million threshold for the competitive balance tax.
“We tried to be clear that this not exclusively about the CBT and getting under the CBT threshold,” Kennedy said. “There would have been other ways to do that. You don’t trade Mookie Betts to get under the CBT. We traded Mookie Betts and David Price to get substantial value for the return.”
The 70-year-old Henry used an example how he would have felt if Stan Musial, his favorite player growing up, been dealt by the St. Louis Cardinals.
“My heart would have broken if Stan the Man had ever been traded — for any reason,” he said, addressing fans. “Your parents or your grandparents surely felt the same way about Ted Williams and Yaz.”
Betts is eligible for free agency after this season. Werner insisted the team tried to sign Betts to a long-term deal many times.
“We had repeated conversations with Mookie over a number of years to try and hold onto him for the length of his baseball career,” he said. “They just didn’t get worked out.
“We also understand — as John says — in the short run this is going to be painful. It’s painful for us.”