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Trading Mookie Betts is unforgivable

The Red Sox just dealt a homegrown superstar entering his prime because they were too cheap to pay him.

LA Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

God, this is so stupid.

Mookie Betts is a homegrown superstar entering his prime with a World Series ring and an MVP already in the bag. You don’t trade players like Betts. You build franchises around them. You sure as hell don’t trade players like Betts in a glorified salary dump just so you can get under the luxury tax.

I don’t ask for much from the teams I grew up rooting for. Frankly they’ve given me more in the last two decades than I ever imagined was possible. What I want is players that compete and competent management.

On the first point, Betts played his ass off. His final act as a member of the Red Sox was dashing home from second with the winning run in a meaningless game against the Orioles. On the second, where was the need for fiscal sanity when the Red Sox let a lame-duck general manager sign Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi to massive extensions?

Don’t come crying poor now, especially when you’re raising ticket prices yet again. I particularly resent the idea that being a baseball fan in 2020 means I’m supposed to spend more than a minute worrying about the budgets of billionaires like John Henry in a sport without a salary cap.

We will be told that Betts didn’t want to be in Boston. That he didn’t want to sign an extension and that he was intent on testing free agency. ‘Can’t lose him for nothing,’ and all that. I don’t want to hear it. There’s a responsibility with having a great player. You pay the man his money. Pay all of it. Do it now or do it this fall. Just pay him what he’s worth.

I’ve been watching the Sox for close to 40 years, and Betts is the one I’ve been waiting for. He’s a wonderful combination of early-period Fred Lynn and late-career Dwight Evans with the power of Jim Rice, the batting eye of Wade Boggs, and speed like no other.

Betts is all of Ellis Burks’ potential realized. He’s Nomar Garciaparra without the fussiness. He should have been here forever, mashing baseballs over the Monster and robbing triples in the right field corner until the moment they retired his number.

I’m supposed to be too old to get attached to players. I’ve lived through Roger Clemens pitching for the Yankees and Pedro Martinez leaving for the Mets. I remember when they forgot to send Carlton Fisk a contract in time. I’ve learned the hard way that the Sox will do dumb things even when the people running the team are way smarter than the ones that ran it into the ground last century.

This is the same ownership group, after all, that thought giving Carl Crawford and Pablo Sandoval huge contracts was a good idea. They’re the same ones who tossed Don Orsillo overboard and hired Bobby Valentine.

I’m mad, but my son is devastated. He has a Betts poster on his wall and two T-shirts with his name on the back (one in red, the other in blue.) He went to a game, saw Betts hit a home run and that was it. Betts was his guy forever. Even wrote him a letter.

This would be different if Betts left in free agency. I’d use that as a teaching opportunity and give him my copy of Marvin Miller’s A Whole Different Ballgame. I’d be pissed at the Sox for letting it happen, but I’d hold no grudge with the player.

But this? I’m supposed to tell him, “Well son, the Red Sox needed a payroll reset. That’s called responsible franchise building and financial flexibility is the name of the game in this modern era.”

No, I told him the truth. The Red Sox were too cheap to pay the best player they’ve had since Carl Yastrzemski.

I’ve got nothing against Chaim Bloom. Red Sox general managers come and go, man. He’s merely the latest to carry out the ever-changing whims of ownership who did him no favors by tipping their hand right after firing the last GM.

But Chaim, buddy, it would have been nice if the return for a top-five player in his prime was more than a 23-year-old outfielder with a bad back and a pitching prospect with a history of arm troubles. Especially when you’re also footing half the bill for the last three years of David Price’s contract, yet another financial albatross that could have been avoided.

What’s the point of having financial flexibility when you could simply pay the best player on your roster right now? You’re not going to get anybody as good as Betts when you stop acting like the freaking Pirates.

It never should have come to this in the first place. The Sox just won three straight division titles and a World Series. That’s good, right? The reason they scuffled last year was all those pitchers with big-money deals kept getting hurt and the previous regime couldn’t build a competent bullpen to save their life. That’s not on Betts or any of the other homegrown talents.

Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are becoming superstars in their own right. I haven’t given up on Andrew Benintendi and I’ve enjoyed every second of Jackie Bradley Jr. playing center field, thank you very much. Christian Vazquez? Sure, him too.

This was a golden era and it was just getting started. It’s what the mid 70s were supposed to be like before they screwed that one up too.

There’s no going back from this. It’s all so unconscionably absurd. Congrats on the payroll reset. The damage will last a generation.