Since the final week of the lost 2019 season, it's been obvious that the Red Sox -- both in their words and deeds -- were intent on cutting payroll.
How do we know this?
First, the words. Addressing reporters on the final weekend of the season, principal owner John Henry said: "This year, we need to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax). That's something we've known for more than a year now.''
Soon after Henry spoke, both chairman Tom Werner and president/CEO Sam Kennedy jumped in for some clarification, saying that Henry was speaking about a goal, rather than a mandate.
Translation: There could be some wiggle room when it came to spending, but the intent was obvious: rein in spending, preferably beneath the $208 million threshold, allowing the Sox to re-set their luxury tax.
Such an effort entirely made sense. After approaching $250 million in 2018 and nearing $240 last season, the Sox were being whacked by luxury taxes designed to inhibit clubs from wildly overspending. It acts as a drag -- particularly for big-market teams -- so that the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs don't amass super teams and torpedo the idea of parity.
There are other incentives for re-setting, too. Last June, the Red Sox lost 10 spots in the annual amateur draft and had their signing pool lessened as well. There are other competitive disadvantages to continually going over the threshold.
Now, for the deeds: despite finishing in third place, some 19 games behind first-place New York, the Sox have done little to improve this winter. They've laid out just over $10 million on players outside the organization, ranking in the bottom third of teams in offseason spending. That's hardly typical for the Red Sox, particularly in the wake of non-playoff seasons.