Red Sox: Keeping Betts, Martinez 'difficult' but possible

The Boston Red Sox see a potential route to keeping pricey stars Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez while also dropping their overall payroll by some $22 million to get under Major League Baseball’s Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold, the team president said Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Sep 29, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) rounds second base to score the game winning run on a hit by third baseman Rafael Devers (not pictured) against the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

But that doesn’t mean it would be easy, Sam Kennedy, also the franchise’s CEO, said Monday at the annual press conference at the end of the season.

“Yes, there is a way, but obviously it will be difficult given the nature of their agreements,” Kennedy said.

The Red Sox, who in 2018 won their second World Series in the past six years, have been among baseball’s biggest spenders, ultimately the biggest on player salaries the past two seasons.

And while the team’s controlling owner, John Henry, said last week that “we need to be under the CBT,” Kennedy was not so steadfast on Monday.

“We will continue to demonstrate a willingness to go over the CBT,” Kennedy said. “It is going to be a challenging offseason, but we are going to attack it.”

The Red Sox currently are without a president of baseball operations, as they fired Dave Dombrowski on Sept. 9.

Betts, the 2018 American League MVP, the MVP runner-up in 2016 and a four-time All-Star, earned $20 million this season on a one-year contract the parties reached to avoid arbitration.

The outfielder, who turns 27 next week, is expected receive $30 million if he and the Red Sox go to arbitration this time, the final offseason before he could become a free agent. When the Red Sox expressed an interest in a longer-term deal before the season, Betts declined.

Betts hit .295 with 29 home runs and 80 RBIs, coming off his stellar 2018 when he led the majors with both a .346 average and a .640 slugging percentage.

Martinez, who signed a five-year contract with Boston for just under $110 million just before spring training in 2018, could use his player opt-out this winter to test the free agent market again.

Martinez, an outfielder and designated hitter, hit .304 with 36 home runs and 105 RBIs this year, down a bit from his 2018 of .330, 43 homers and a major-league-best 130 RBIs.

--Field Level Media