Dodgers star Mookie Betts has no idea how much Red Sox fans love him

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Tomase: Mookie Betts has no idea how much Red Sox fans love him originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Mookie Betts left Boston more than two years ago, and we've heard shockingly little from him since on his departure, his feelings towards the city, or whether the Red Sox could've found a way to keep him.

WEEI.com's Rob Bradford sat down with the former AL MVP in Chicago on Tuesday, however, and discussed those topics. And if there's one shocking takeaway from their conversation, it's this: Betts worries that Red Sox fans consider him a traitor.

"There was a lot of talk where I didn't want to stay, or this, that, and the other -- that's false," Betts said. "It's just business. It is what it is. There's nothing you can do about it now."

It's hard to blame Betts for thinking Red Sox fans might have it in for him. Just months after being drafted by Theo Epstein in 2011, he watched the general manager leave amidst a storm of controversy that also claimed manager Terry Francona. He joined the club for good on Aug. 1, 2014, immediately after a bloody trade deadline that saw Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, and Andrew Miller shipped away. He spent parts of three years with Pablo Sandoval, a constant target of criticism. Closer to home, he watched Red Sox fans turn on current Dodgers teammate David Price, who joined him in the 2020 trade to L.A.

But if Betts is concerned, let's make this as clear as possible: Red Sox fans love him unconditionally and will bemoan his departure until the day he enters Cooperstown wearing Dodger Blue. The percentage of fans who blame ownership for pushing him out the door might be 100 percent. Those who condemn Betts for being greedy or wanting out of Boston or whatever, that's close to zero.

Opinions have only hardened in the two years since he left. Betts won a World Series in his Dodgers debut and is currently in the midst of his best season since winning the MVP in 2018. He's hitting .302 with an NL-leading 16 home runs, obliterating any dwindling hopes that the Red Sox didn't get fleeced with a return of outfielder Alex Verdugo and minor prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

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With a $365 million contract that runs through 2032, Betts could easily forget Boston and just shrug off what anyone may or may not think. He's rich, he's a Hollywood star, and there's no need to look back.

He's not wired like that, though, and so he can't help but worry.

"I just don't want anybody, especially when I go back, man, I don't want it to be like it was hatred or I didn't want to be there," he said. "I loved everybody in Boston. I loved it. That was the best time of my life. Obviously it's a new chapter now and I've got to live where my feet are, but I'll never forget all those memories, all those fans, and all the things I did in Boston, all the people, that was my life. It's something I'll never forget."

He's worried about nothing. Red Sox fans put him atop a class reserved for Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk, and maybe Bruce Hurst -- star players who never should've been allowed to leave. With MLB moving to a balanced schedule next year, the Dodgers are guaranteed to play a series in Fenway Park in either 2023 or 2024.

But if Betts is concerned, let's make this as clear as possible: Red Sox fans love him unconditionally and will bemoan his departure until the day he enters Cooperstown wearing Dodger Blue. The percentage of fans who blame ownership for pushing him out the door might be 100 percent.

John Tomase on Betts' departure

If Betts is concerned about what kind of reaction he might receive, allow me to play spoiler: a sustained standing ovation.

Bradford concluded his podcast by asking Betts if there's anything he'd like Red Sox fans to know.

"Every time I go back to Boston, I'll go back to all the places I used to go to and see all the people I used to see, and just tell everybody how loved (I felt) and thank everybody for the opportunity, the cheers, the boos, the happiness, the crying, the ups and … everything man," Betts said. "It was a great time in my life and I want to thank everybody for that."