Mookie Betts is under control of the Boston Red Sox for one more season. Red Sox fans, however, are not soon to forget Betts if Boston trades him during the offseason. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The 2019 MLB winter meetings have been dominated by the big names. Gerrit Cole is in a bicoastal tug of war as he listens to offers from the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels. While that was going on, reports surfaced that Stephen Strasburg agreed to a staggering $245 million deal to remain with the champion Nationals.

As expected, the Boston Red Sox aren’t in on the biggest fish swimming around the Pacific here in southern California. New Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom is more likely to go the other way, moving pieces off a roster that won a championship just 14 months ago.

Or he might not. Bloom may decide he isn’t being offered enough talent to flip a starter like Jackie Bradley, Jr. or 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts. He may decide to ride this group out for another year, hoping the pitching staff is healthy enough to lead the Red Sox back into playoff contention.

Uncertainty is the buzzword of this Red Sox offseason, and it’s what makes this winter so intriguing for their fans. We really don’t know how things will play out. We’ve heard the team’s intention to lower the payroll below the $207 million Competitive Balance Tax, but we’ve also heard that this desire is a goal, and not a mandate.

The biggest question surrounding the Red Sox here on the West Coast is the future of Betts. He has one year remaining under control of the Red Sox, and there has been no news of Boston getting any closer to signing him to a contract extension.

Is keeping him a goal? Is trading him a mandate? It’s been hard to figure out which way the organization is leaning.


“We are thrilled to have him and I know this organization prior to my arrival has been happy to have him,” Bloom said on NESN After Hours last week. “Now we have to figure how we go forward. I think, where we are as an organization, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we’re not exploring all of our options. But we do that recognizing we have a very good team and we have one of the best players in the game and we’re going to handle the situation accordingly.”

How’s that for fence sitting? On one hand Bloom says they are thrilled to have him. He then follows up by saying they have to explore all options.

The sentiment here as the meetings began was that it would be extraordinarily difficult for Bloom to deal Betts in these early months of his administration. The difficulty in getting requisite talent in return and the potential backlash back home if a deal were made could be too much to overcome.

“The grandmothers of New Hampshire will not allow him to come in the state (if Bloom trades Betts),” MLB Radio Network host Jim Duquette said Monday. That’s not just a hot take from a radio host. That’s from a former general manager who grew up in Massachusetts and is the brother of former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette.

And yet Bloom will have to move someone if he hopes to achieve the goal of lowering payroll. At the very least, it’s hard to imagine him adding any type of significant salary commitment to the current payroll. Which will make it difficult to address the team’s current needs (like a fifth starter or relief help).

Bloom was hired to be a creative leader who could make unexpected deals with other teams. He did it as the No. 2 man in Tampa Bay and will have to be creative in his new role with the Red Sox. Perhaps he’s looking at deals involving other players while we are all distracting ourselves with the future of Betts or, to a lesser extent, Bradley.

He could go a number of ways. While the Yankees are up to their old tricks of offering mega contracts to top free agents, the Red Sox are trying to embark on a new course that isn’t just about adding talent to the current payroll.

There will no doubt be a few surprises along the way. Which is why we’ll be watching every move Bloom makes. And the ones he doesn’t.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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