The Tampa Bay Rays celebrate after defeating the Oakland Athletics in the American League wild card game last week. The Rays had the lowest MLB payroll in 2019; the A’s had the sixth-lowest payroll. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

The wait is on.

It’s been a month since the Boston Red Sox announced they had parted ways with Dave Dombrowski, their president of baseball operations.  Since then we’ve learned very little about who the successor to Dombrowski will be.

What we know is this: Red Sox ownership is focusing its search on someone outside the organization, but is not rushing the process because they have complete faith in the current group of VP’s and Assistant GM’s running baseball operations.

We know that the team has a “goal” of getting below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $208 million next year, but that this is not a strict mandate.

Watching the early games of this year’s postseason, it’s easy to understand why the Red Sox would want to lower the bottom line.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics played in the American League wild-card game last week with two of the lowest payrolls in baseball. In fact, Tampa Bay had the lowest payroll, with a total outlay of just $64 million for a team that won 96 games.


Oakland fielded a team with the sixth-lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, spending just under $93 million to get back to the playoffs for the second year in a row.

In other words, the first game of the American League playoffs featured two teams costing about $72 million less than the Red Sox. Combined. You don’t have to own a baseball team to understand that paying considerably more and getting considerably less out of your organization is a bad business model.

Expect the Red Sox to try to change that in 2020. As part of the management team said to me at the end of the season, “The point of this is not to spend the most money. It’s to win the most games.”

So the Red Sox will try to reset the equation, lowering payroll while winning more than 84 games, their total in 2019. It won’t be easy. The Red Sox had a tremendous offensive season, hitting a franchise record 245 home runs and scoring more runs than they did during their 108-win championship campaign a year ago.

It was the pitching that let Boston down. Specifically, the starting pitching. And that happens to be what the Red Sox are spending most of their money on.

We’ve talked about the possibility of losing J.D. Martinez or Mookie Betts. Or both. And it’s a very real possibility. It would make a lot of sense for the new head of baseball operations to come in and give up some offense in exchange for better pitching. He or she will almost have to follow that playbook.


Still, this won’t be a complete demolition and reconstruction. There is too much talent on the roster for that. And don’t expect the team to shed as much payroll as possible.

While the Rays and A’s are a reminder that you can win while spending less, here’s another reminder: of the eight teams to advance to the divisional playoffs, six spent above the MLB average this season ($137 million) – and five of those teams were among the top eight in payroll spending in 2019. Only the Rays and the Minnesota Twins were below average.

In the end, it still takes money to field a championship-level team. The Red Sox might try not to spend the most money of any team in 2020, but they certainly won’t spend the least.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN.

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