The Boston Red Sox let the Houtson Astros hire Dusty Baker, the best and most expensive manager on the market, without showing any interest in him. And now they are entertaining trade proposals for right fielder extraordinaire Mookie Betts.

Sadly, it feels as if the Red Sox are pushing their chairs back from the high-roller table.

Betts brings all the qualities an organization would want in a superstar, and the fact that Xander Bogaerts does as well is all the more reason to keep Mookie. A lineup that features Betts, Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers means pitching is the only area in need of serious fortification.

To deal Mookie now in order to make the luxury-tax outlook better and the team worse would feel like such a surrender from an organization that has found a way to marry its television property and ballclub to become a high-speed printing press of dead presidents.

Why even contemplate such a move? For fear they’ll lose him to free agency? That’s not how whales operate. They’re not driven by fear. They believe in their ability to play hands just right, and they know how to close. This is no time to fold.

Do the Red Sox not believe they have a skilled negotiator, or worse, do they handcuff their best deal-maker by absurdly insisting that Betts take a “hometown” discount?

Trading Betts would be a defensive move, not an aggressive one.

The Sox are paying the price for the inflated contracts of oft-injured Nathan Eovaldi and aging elite starting pitchers Chris Sale and David Price, so the answer is to unload a superstar in his prime, a year before he enters free agency?

By dealing Betts, the owners would punish themselves too severely for past mistakes. They deserve better, and so do Red Sox fans. Better for ownership to penalize itself by paying outrageous taxes than by unloading a great and beloved player.

Have the Red Sox thought this one all the way through? Are they ready for their fans to have to watch Mookie pouring champagne on teammates in a California clubhouse? Oh well, at least the wild celebrations in the front offices of the Yankees and Astros upon Betts leaving the American League wouldn’t be televised, if that’s any consolation.

Only Mike Trout and Christian Yelich amassed more points in MVP voting the past two seasons than Betts, 27.

A consistent hustler, Mookie has demonstrated the ability to stay healthy and is well above average in all seven tools: head, heart, hitting, hitting with power, running, fielding and throwing. His ability to play right field and center gives the Sox flexibility for as long as they keep him. After abandoning his overly ambitious effort to become an even better hitter by taking more pitches, Mookie returned to his aggressive ways and finished last season on a tear.

Other than boosting the offense – he led the American League the past two seasons in runs – and preventing runs with his defense (four consecutive Gold Gloves), Betts can’t help the pitching staff. The Red Sox will need to do that by breaking their long history of failure in drafting the correct arms and developing them skillfully. The Sox need to identify the best judges of pitching talent in other organizations, offer them huge raises, and do the same with the best instructors of pitching mechanics.

That’s how to compensate over the long run for sinking too much money into the rotation, not by dealing one of the game’s top handful of players.

For all the fuss over the role analytics played in helping the A’s compete against teams that had far higher payrolls, the reason those teams thrived was because they had a trio of exceptional starting pitchers (Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder) who didn’t have enough service time to earn big bucks yet.

Analytics help, but developing young pitching is the key to long-term success. It will take a while for the Sox to break that long slump. In the meantime, they need to make their lineup as whole as possible and not create the gigantic hole that dealing Betts would create.

The way Betts’ career projects, this whole thing boils down to two options for the Sox: Make every effort to keep Betts in Boston or live to regret not giving it their best shot. Short of the Sox publicly detailing the best contract offer they made to him and it being a mind-blowing set of numbers, nobody would believe that dealing Betts now would fall under the umbrella of giving it their best shot.


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