Red Sox owner says team plans to cut payroll after missing playoffs

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BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: Mookie Betts #50 talks with J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox before a game against the New York Yankees on July 28, 2019 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Would the Red Sox really move Mookie Betts and/or J.D. Martinez to save some money? (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Going from a World Series title to missing the playoffs in the span of a year would be jarring for any MLB team. For the 83-76 Boston Red Sox, it was inexcusable.

The team’s first big reaction to the disappointment was to fire well-regarded president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Its next move could also carry a large amount of significance.

Red Sox to slash payroll?

Red Sox owner John Henry told reporters on Friday that his team wants to go under the luxury tax threshold for the 2020 season, which is slated to be $208 million.

Ducking under the tax this offseason would reset the team’s competitive balance clock in 2020, going from paying 40 percent of an overage for a third straight year above the threshold to paying nothing.

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner also said the team plans to be competitive, but that doesn’t quite square with what the team would need to do to accomplish its goal.

Red Sox already near the luxury tax threshold

Such a change would obviously mean a dramatic makeover for a roster that led MLB in payroll last season at over $236 million after competitive balance tax calculations. The plan was reportedly part of the reason Dombrowski was ousted in the first place, as Henry said the executive was at odds with ownership over the direction of the franchise.

So what could this mean for the 2018 World Series champs? Well, prepare to see quite a few notable contributors from the World Series team exit the team.

As RosterResource’s Jon Baker breaks down, the Red Sox are already three quarters of the way to the luxury tax threshold in 2020, without accounting for raises to stars Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts. Also incoming is a likely massive arbitration salary for 2018 MVP Mookie Betts, as well as plenty of other arbitration players like Eduardo Rodriguez, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi.

Basically, the team’s self-imposed payroll crunch would be so dire that when it comes to slugger J.D. Martinez — who hit .305/.383/.556 with 35 homers last year — opting out of his contract could be a good thing. It’s bad enough that the Red Sox are expected to trade at least one of Betts and Martinez this offseason, according to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe.

So, in case the next GM of the Red Sox is reading this, congratulations. You will soon be making decisions for a contender that plans to shed some of its best players, likely won’t be signing any significant free agents and still carries those Boston-level expectations of contending.

Maybe rent instead of buy when it comes to Boston real estate.

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