Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday he understands fans' feelings about the trade that sent star outfielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers but that the realities of today's game left the club little choice.
Speaking at a news conference at the team's spring training home in FortMyers, Fla., Henry said he knew how he would have felt had his boyhood team, the St. Louis Cardinals, traded Stan Musial. And he said he recognizes fans are reliving what it was like when the Sox shipped Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline 16 years ago.
"I know it's difficult and disappointing," he said. "Some of you no doubt felt the same way in 2004 when we traded Nomar, who like Mookie was a hugely popular, homegrown player. All of us in the organization hoped we could avoid ever having to go through something like that again."
Still, Henry said the trade that sent Betts, the 2018 American League MVP, and left-hander David Price to the Dodgers for prospects Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong and Jeter Downs ultimately was made to stay competitive in the long-term. Betts is scheduled to become a free agent following the 2020 season.
"I understand there is probably little I can say today that will change how you feel about this, but it is my responsibility to try," Henry said. The baseball organizations we compete against have become much more strategic and thoughtful about how and where they spend their resources in their quest for titles. We cannot shy away from tough decisions required to aggressively compete for World Series. That is what led to this trade."
Henry acknowledged the Red Sox went through an offseason that was "particularly challenging." It included replacing manager Alex Cora, who led the team to a World Series title in 2018, but was implicated in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal when he was a coach in Houston.
On Monday, Henry's focus was on reassuring fans that the team has been faced with tough player departures but things worked out OK.
"Even though we are consistently among the highest spending clubs in baseball - with this year being no exception - we have to make hard judgments about competing for the future as well as the present," he said. "Over the last two decades in winning four titles, along the way we lost not only Nomar, but Pedro (Martinez) and Jacoby (Ellsbury) and Jon (Lester) and Manny (Ramirez) among others."
Now, Betts' name has been added to that list.
"We at the Red Sox will remember this as one of the toughest, one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make. We too love the young man, the great, great smile, the huge heart and the seemingly boundless talent he displayed here," he said. "We felt we could not sit on our hands and lose him next offseason without getting value in return to help us on our path forward. We carefully considered the alternative over the last year and made a decision when this opportunity presented itself to acquire substantial, young talent for the years ahead."
--Field Level Media