As the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced through the 2020 Major League Baseball playoffs one thought kept creeping into my head, how did this team end up with Mookie Betts? I know that actuality of how they ended up with him. The trade they pulled off with the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers signing Betts to a new long-term deal. These are all known occurrences, what I’m more interested in is the mindset that led to the Red Sox parting ways with one of the best players in all of baseball.
I’m not a Dodgers fan and for various reasons, I haven’t been all that emotionally invested in this year’s playoffs. While that has taken away some of the luster of the proceedings it has also allowed me to think more deeply about Betts and the Red Sox every time Betts makes an impossible catch or drives in an important run. Every single time no matter what angle I take I am led to the question of why, and to be honest I can never truly answer that question.
The other players involved in the Betts deal aren’t the why. They never asked to be included in a deal for Mookie Betts and no matter what they do in their careers they likely won’t measure up to Betts’ soon-to-be Hall of Fame resume. The Dodgers aren’t the why, they saw a chance to grab a generational talent and did exactly what any team should do in that situation. Betts himself isn’t the why, no statistic I throw at you or anecdote about his career will be able to explain why the Red Sox thought it was worthwhile to trade away their franchise player.
The search for the why of the Betts deal comes back to money. I’m not sure that one hundred percent provides an answer as to the why but it fills in most of the gaps. For whatever reason Red Sox ownership decided they could not afford to pay Betts what he was worth moving forward. One of the richest teams in all of baseball owned by one of the most lucrative ownership groups in all of sports didn’t feel it was worth their team to retain a perennial Most Valuable Player candidate. It’s not a way of thinking I can wrap my head around and I think that’s okay, to be honest. I don’t really want to understand how a team can look at their years and years of profit, Betts’ league-leading stats year after year, and decide, nah, you’re not the one for us, Mookie.
One thing all my ruminations on the Betts trade have borne out is that it’s fine to not have the answer. Sometimes things happen beyond our reason to comprehend. We may understand the actual machinations that took place, but it’s reasonable to not get a mindset that is frankly, dumb. The Red Sox were dumb to trade away Mookie, every Red Sox fan knows this is true. For them, this year’s playoffs have been a series of moments where Betts inadvertently pours more salt into the wounds the Red Sox inflicted on them with the trade. Boston sports fans have a pretty great life, but we can still take a step back and realize that in this instance Red Sox ownership did them dirty in the worst possible way.
There will likely be years of Mookie Betts reminding Red Sox fans of how dumb their ownership decided to be when all they needed to do was offer a little more money. The Red Sox will spend again, they will make improvements to Fenway Park, they will cultivate new stars, and they will find themselves as champions in the future. None of that excuses their willingness to trade away a talent like Mookie Betts. The why of the Mookie Betts trade can be answered by a combination of money and stupidity. It’s the stupidity of Red Sox ownership that will continue to shine the brightest every season that Mookie Betts wears Dodgers blue. It’s unfathomable that Red Sox ownership allowed this to come to fruition, and it’s okay for people to not understand that particular brand of stupid.