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Sox expect Mookie to be in Opening Day lineup

@IanMBrowne
January 15, 2020

BOSTON -- It is certainly an unsettling time for the Red Sox, who are suddenly searching for a new manager with just a month to go before Spring Training. But chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on Wednesday offered some words on Mookie Betts that might make fans feel a little

BOSTON -- It is certainly an unsettling time for the Red Sox, who are suddenly searching for a new manager with just a month to go before Spring Training.

But chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on Wednesday offered some words on Mookie Betts that might make fans feel a little better.

Does Bloom expect Betts to be in the Red Sox's lineup when they open their season in Toronto on March 26?

"That's really been my expectation all along," said Bloom. "I think big picture, and this applies to everything, we're not doing our jobs if we're not open to anything that improves our chances to compete as successfully and as often as possible over the course of the next decade.

"That has kind of been our guiding principle as we have accessed interest in any of our players. But you do that with the expectation that they will be here. And that will certainly be the case with Mookie."

The situation with Betts has been well-chronicled. Betts is entering his final season before free agency, and he avoided arbitration by agreeing with the Red Sox on a one-year, $27 million contract last week.

Betts has maintained that he plans on going to free agency rather than discussing an extension with the Red Sox.

"Mookie's an MVP-caliber player and has just been an outstanding member of the Red Sox. We're excited to have him here," said Red Sox president/CEO Sam Kennedy. "We'd be excited to have him here long-term. We've expressed that publicly, but beyond that, I can't speculate as to what might happen except to say he's an incredible teammate, an incredible person, incredible baseball player."

The glass certainly looks a lot fuller for the 2020 Red Sox with Betts in the fold.

That said, there's a chance Bloom will make some other subtractions to his existing core.

Ownership set a goal at the beginning of the offseason to get the payroll below the luxury-tax threshold of $208 million.

Bloom said Wednesday that remains a goal, but he wanted to remind people that the reason for that is that resetting the Competitive Balance Tax helps the Red Sox achieve their goal of competing over the long haul. Boston was over the luxury tax the past two seasons. Many big-market teams, including the Yankees and Dodgers, have reset the luxury tax in recent years.

"No, nothing's changed with that, but I think it's important to clarify, and I think this has gotten lost in the shuffle sometimes," Bloom said. "The goal to get under the CBT is not an end in itself. It fits within the larger goal of making sure that we are as competitive as possible over the long haul.

"Our fans deserve a competitive product year in, year out, and regardless of your budget, it is near impossible to deliver that unless you focus on the big picture, unless you focus on both the present and the future, and so accomplishing that, using your resources effectively is part of accomplishing that goal.

"And so as far as that's going to help us do that, help us compete as often as possible for as long as possible, that's the goal we're going to pursue, but we're not doing it as an end itself. We will attempt to do it in a way that's consistent with that larger goal."

The Red Sox still have $20 million or so to trim from the payroll if they're to reach that goal.

Moving lefty David Price, who is owned $96 million over the next three years, is certainly one way to do that. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who will make $11 million in his walk year, could also get dealt.

Though this Hot Stove season has lacked the pizazz of recent ones in Boston, ownership and the front office are determined to field a top contender in the coming season.

"There's been a lot of splashes in baseball around the industry, big moves," said Kennedy. "We have not engaged in any of those yet, but we've also made some important moves for this roster. So we're a better team than an 84-win team. As we turn the page on '19 and look forward to '20, we're excited and optimistic."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.