John Henry insists Mookie Betts trade wasn't driven by desire to cut payroll

Darren Hartwell
NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Red Sox continue to do damage control after trading away their franchise player.

Many have criticized the Red Sox for dumping outfielder Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price on the Los Angeles Dodgers as a means to get under Major League Baseball's competitive balance tax for 2020.

Principal owner John Henry has deep pockets, after all -- Forbes recently listed his Fenway Sports Group empire as the third-wealthiest sports group in the world at $6.6 billion -- so why couldn't the club shell out a little more money to sign Betts to an extension before he hit free agency in 2021?

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In a recent interview with The Boston Globe's Michael Silverman, Henry defended the team's decision to trade Betts and insisted critics are too focused on his September 2019 comments admitting the Red Sox need to be under the CBT in 2020.

"You're hung up on CBT," Henry told Silverman. "You see this and I think the media, too, to some extent, ever since we mentioned that clubs have a tendency to get below CBT once in a while."

"It's surprising that anyone would think we would outspend every other team in baseball every single year. To me, that's a little surprising. Clubs have to make difficult decisions, and one of the biggest decisions they have to make is, ‘Do we potentially let a great player walk away for very little compensation?' That's one of the decisions that you have to make irrespective of CBT – it has nothing to do with CBT."

The Red Sox paid a $13.4 million luxury tax bill for 2019 after boasting the highest payroll in baseball and haven't ranked lower than fifth in spending among MLB clubs under Henry's tenure.

They're not always the highest-spending club, though: Boston has topped the CBT 10 times in the last 17 years, while the rival New York Yankees have exceeded the CBT in every year during that span.

But Henry insisted the luxury tax was "only an element" in trading Betts, and that the Red Sox' return of outfielder Alex Verdugo, infield prospect Jeter Downs and catcher prospect Connor Wong will be better for the club in the long run.

"Maybe you and others at this point undervalue the baseball side of the deal," Henry told Silverman. "We have balance, and not just this year."

That "balance" likely won't lead to more wins in 2020, but Henry seems adamant trading Betts was the right move for the franchise in the long-term -- financials notwithstanding.

John Henry insists Mookie Betts trade wasn't driven by desire to cut payroll originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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