Bradford: Looking at what Red Sox should do with their Mookie money


What's done is done.

The Red Sox offered Mookie Betts an extension of 10 years, $310 million and he turned it down, they traded him and perhaps held out hope that another attempt could be made when the outfielder hit free agency and Chaim Bloom's luxury tax threshold situation cleared up.

But, alas, Betts has chosen to sign with the Dodgers on a deal that stretches through the next 13 seasons. It's time to move on.

If the Red Sox did commit to Betts for the kind of money he landed with the Dodgers the prospects of ever getting back in the top tier free-agent market for a while would seem slim. In order to allocate this much money to one player, you better have a strong farm system, young regulars under control for some time and a solid luxury tax situation. The Dodgers have all that. At this moment, the Red Sox do not. (For a good explanation on how general managers view making such an enormous commitment, click here for the ones who locked up Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.)

So as long as Major League Baseball manages to get into September with this current season, allowing the Red Sox to achieve their ultimate goal of resetting their luxury tax cliff, they will have money that they wouldn't have if there was a Betts deal. So, what now?

After taking off the financial shackles following the 2012 trade with the Dodgers many expected the Red Sox to go all-in on big-money free agents such as Josh Hamilton. Nope. Mike Napoli. Ryan Dempster. David Ross. Shane Victorino. Jonny Gomes. That's the path they took.

But when the bid at bringing back Jon Lester fell short, that's when they decided to use the money for big-ticket items. Hanley Ramirez. Pablo Sandoval. And ultimately David Price.

This time around there is no clear path. The allocation of funds can go a bunch of different ways. Here are some of the avenues that might be taken with this newfound wealth:

1. Locking up Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez to extensions.

These are no-brainers and have to be the priority. With Devers, the Red Sox may have missed their Alex Bregman-comp window (5 years, $100 million), but there is little doubt that the third baseman is a no-brainer when it comes to identifying him as a foundation piece for this lineup. And as for Rodriguez -- who will be eligible for free agency after 2021 --, he is emerging into the kind of pitcher a team would want to commit long-term to. His maturity and production have taken huge steps forward. You are going to need a top-of-the-rotation piece without as many question marks as Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale, and Rodriguez is as good an option as any.

2. Decipher the future of J.D. Martinez.

Taking Martinez out of this lineup would be a huge hit. And as much as teams believe a replacement can be found at every position, this is the kind of player whose skill-set is so unique (as was also the case with David Ortiz) that his departure could get really uncomfortable really fast. So the question should be asked: Is it worth it to sweeten Martinez's current deal, which allows him to opt-out after 2020? Perhaps simply making the final two years along the lines of what he is getting this season ($23.75 million) instead of the close to $20 million in 2021 and 2022 what be an option just to not allow him to flirt with free agency. With the universal designated hitter in both leagues, it would seem to be a worthy investment.

3. George Springer? Why not?

Springer is heading to become one of the top free agents this coming offseason and just so happens to play a position the Red Sox might be in the market for. Perhaps the Red Sox see how Jackie Bradley Jr.'s market plays out and leans on the development of Jarren Duran. But the 30-year-old would be a solid foundation piece, still allowing for the integration of Duran if Andrew Benintendi is viewed as an avenue to trade for young pitching.

4. Trevor Bauer? No. Jon Lester? Yes.

If the Cubs do not pick up Lester's $25 million option for 2021 (which seems to be the likely scenario), the lefty will be hitting the free-agent market once again. He is not the pitcher we last saw in a Red Sox uniform, and still has a lot to prove in 2020, but the idea of this sort of presence in a rotation with Rodriguez, Sale, and Eovaldi is intriguing. And, as Lester told WEEI in May, it is a reunion that certainly resides on his radar.

"Obviously everything is open," he said. "I'm open-minded to anything. Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started. But, I've got a little time before I really have to sit down and weigh that decision, even if it's something where they want me back. Hopefully, I'm still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people. We'll see."

It is this type of pitching acquisition that makes the most sense for the Red Sox, even with their new riches. Bauer represents the type of free-agent pitcher who is going to cost a lot of money and years. The Red Sox have already gone down that road, living life with Eovaldi's and Sale's contracts for at least the next two years after this one.

5. Save it for the next class of free agents.

Who wouldn't want to have Francisco Lindor or Carlos Correa? Sure, the Red Sox have their shortstop in Xander Bogaerts but if you can find a way to get one these free-agents-to-be it might be worth some conversations regarding positional flexibility. If they do go that route and the ask is of Bogaerts to move, the Sox may run the risk their current shortstop finding another team to let him play the position via that 2022 season.