Red Sox

MLB Notebook: Pandemic will be a factor at negotiating table; replay to take hiatus?

In many ways, there's a great deal that we don't know about the immediate future of pro sports, and baseball in particular.

What will the quality of play be like after such a long layoff? Will the game still have the same appeal? When -- even after it's deemed safe by health experts and permissible -- will fans feel comfortable returning to the ballpark?

Add to that list: what will the long shutdown and resulting startup to the game's economic system?

That is unlikely to be at the forefront of most fans' list of priorities. There are far greater issues to tackle in the coming months, and sports, above all else, is designed to serve as a distraction from bigger issues. And at a time when unemployment is expected to top 25 percent, there will few worried about the economic fate of ballplayers, many of whom have already millions.

Still, it would be naive to think there won't be some fallout when it comes to player salaries. If the 2020 games are played before few fans -- or, potentially, none at all -- that will impact the owners' bottom line. And because of changing habits, fear of a return of the virus and continued social distancing, it's pretty much a given that attendance in 2021 will also be negatively affected.

In an era when even the biggest stars (Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, J.D. Martinez) have recently had to wait until spring training before obtaining nine-figure deals, how will the landscape change this winter and next?