FORT MYERS, Fla. -- "Follow the money'' is always a handy bit of advice for anyone looking to get to the root of an issue.
It gets used from Watergate to Wall Street. Want to know why someone did what they did? Follow the money.
The Red Sox tried, without much success Monday, to present the opposite viewpoint. They insisted -- time and time again -- that the reason Mookie Betts is now sporting Dodger Blue and not Red Sox red had little to do with money and more to do with positioning themselves for the future.
"We cannot shy aware from tough decisions required to aggressively compete for World Series,'' said principal owner John Henry. "That is what led to this trade. We have to make hard judgments competing for the future as well as the present.''
More than anything, they wanted it known that it wasn't about getting the payroll under the competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold of $208 million.
Technically, this might be true. The Red Sox were in a position to afford the $27 million salary for Betts in 2020 and dealing away David Price (due $32 million each of the next three seasons) and making some other in-season cost-cutting moves could have helped them achieve that goal.
But they were unsure of their ability -- or perhaps willingness? -- to afford him past 2020. Henry, chairman Tom Werner and team president Sam Kennedy all noted that the team had made repeated attempts to get an extension done with Betts after the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Some careful listening, however, would have alerted you to the fact that there was nothing mentioned about negotiations from this past winter, with one year of control remaining. Perhaps that was because, as has been reported, Betts had asked for a contract commensurate with the one given to Mike Trout, or, more than $400 million.
Henry noted baseball's current economic system is not without its flaws, before noting: "It's not the system's fault that the Red Sox ended up in this position.''
That much is true, of course. It's their own fault.