Red Sox

MLB Notebook: Rotation offers Red Sox alternate payroll cutting option

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One way or another, the Red Sox face some painful choices in their effort to get under the first luxury tax threshold of $208 million for the 2020 season.

There are a number of paths the team could take to achieve their cuts. Trading away Mookie Betts would save about $28 million alone. Moving J.D. Martinez would represent a savings of nearly $24 million.

But while those are the most obvious and most speculated possibilities, there are other options in play for the Red Sox. These would involve dealing one of their veteran starters. Together, Chris Sale, David Price and Nathan Eovaldi stand to earn $79 million, or, more than a third of the club's projected payroll for next season.

Moving one of the starters would enable the Sox to maintain a top lineup, one capable of leading the game in runs scored. And it would potentially allow for the Sox to continue to try to work out a contract extension for Betts, who is under control for just one more season.

There are drawbacks, of course, to dealing a starting pitcher. First, there's the obvious hole that would be created in the rotation at a time when the organization lacks any obvious replacements.

Secondly, each of the three veteran starters is coming off a sub-par 2019 season, meaning the Sox would be dealing at a disadvantage. Accordingly, they would need to subsidize the salary of the pitcher involved -- either by including an attractive prospect to offset the cost of taking on such an outsized contract, or by assuming some of the salary themselves. Neither option is particularly attractive: under the former, the Sox would be depleting an already thin inventory of prospects; under the latter, the potential lessening of further salary burdens would be compromised by assuming some of the remaining financial obligations.

But as stipulated earlier, there are no perfect solutions. One way or another, cutting salary is going to leave a mark.

Let's look at the three starters and examine their respective pros and cons.