SAN DIEGO -- The Yankees winning the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes at the record-setting price for a pitcher of $324 million over nine years has left no question about who the underdog is going to be in MLB's most storied rivalry next season.
But it has hardly sent new Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom into panic mode.
For over a decade with the Rays, Bloom was part of an operation that consistently watched the high-priced players wind up with one of the two American League East heavyweights -- the Yankees or Red Sox.
Bloom's Rays often found a way to compete anyway, and now he will try to succeed the same way in Boston with far more resources at his disposal.
"I've been in this division for a long time," Bloom said. "You expect your rivals are going to be really good. You expect that they're going to make moves that are gonna make them really good. It's going to be a battle, start to finish -- it always has been. We expect that it will be for the foreseeable future. The specifics of those moves may change year to year, but we expect these types of things from our competitors, so it doesn't change our approach."
Bloom's approach is to build as competitive a team as he can for next season, with the added challenge of lopping roughly $20 million off the payroll to get below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $208 million.
With starting pitchers flying off the board, there seems to be a better chance that the Red Sox won't have to trade five-tool star Mookie Betts.
The reason is that the supply and demand of the starting-pitching market has led to increased interest in Sox lefty David Price, who is owed $96 million over the final three seasons of his contract. The Angels, who badly wanted Cole, are one team to keep an eye on. So, too, are the White Sox. Those are two squads that are expected to add payroll this winter.
"I'm hesitant, and I don't want to get into specifics of really any trade conversations that we're having," Bloom said. "But I think you can see just by looking around the league that pitching has been the story of the week here, just generally."
To entice a potential suitor to take on Price's salary -- or at least a large portion of it -- the Red Sox might have to attach an appealing position player such as Andrew Benintendi. Considering the current state of the farm system, don't expect the Sox to do what the Angels did in the Zack Cozart trade by including a top prospect.
"I don't think we'd ever want to rule anything out, but so much of what we're always going to be trying to accomplish, but certainly now, is to make sure we have as strong a farm system as possible," Bloom said. "Anything you might consider, you have to factor that in. You certainly don't want to deplete the system when you don't have to."
Though Cole going to the Yankees is hardly a good thing for the Red Sox, one side benefit is that it seemingly eliminates New York as a potential suitor for Betts in next winter's free-agent market.
Speaking of Betts, Bloom didn't want to get into any specifics of whether the right fielder would be open to discussing an extension. Last season, when Dave Dombrowski was still the president of baseball operations for the Sox, Betts was consistent in saying he planned to get to free agency.
"You guys know that obviously, over the course of time, there's been a lot of conversations with him. I think just because those conversations haven't resulted in a deal, I don't think it's fair to say he hasn't been open to it," Bloom said. "I don't want to get into exactly what we might be talking about right now or have talked about since my arrival."
Could the uncertainty regarding Betts impact any other moves Bloom makes this winter?
"You always want to know as much as you can. I don't think that specifically is going to have that great an impact on most of the options we would look at," Bloom said. "Obviously, the more you know about the total picture of your club, the better off you are, but I don't think it's having a great bearing for us on a lot of the other discussions we're having."
Beating a Yankees squad that now has Cole at the front of the rotation is certainly going to be tough. But it will likely be more doable if Betts remains.
The mega-deal the Yankees made with Cole certainly has the industry buzzing, but it hasn't really changed much for Bloom.
"Look, we want to beat the Yankees as badly as anybody -- trust me," said Bloom. "I think it's just a question of us being able to step back and say, 'What is the best approach for us to do that?' The more we feel like we're being reactive to other teams' moves, I think the more we're playing their game. We might be pushing ourselves further from that objective rather than helping ourselves."