Defenseman Charlie McAvoy signed a three-year, $14.7 million extension to remain with the Boston Bruins. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

They are at different stages of the season and in different stages of roster construction. But three of Boston’s sports franchises have one thing in common: They’ve been wrestling with contract decisions that will impact them for years to come.

On Sunday, the Bruins announced they had locked up defenseman Charlie McAvoy for the next three seasons. It was a team-friendly deal that keeps the 21-year-old in black and gold while leaving the team enough salary cap breathing room to sign Brandon Carlo.

Assuming they get the Carlo deal done, there’s no reason to think the Bruins can’t compete for Eastern Conference supremacy again this year. The Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup finals still stings, but getting McAvoy back is an important step in keeping the team’s defensive core together. This was an easy signing, as long as McAvoy was willing to agree to terms that make sense.

The McAvoy signing, and everything else around here, was overshadowed by Antonio Brown’s arrival in New England. Brown’s impact on the field was felt immediately when he scored a touchdown in the second quarter of the Patriots’ 43-0 win over the Dolphins on Sunday.

Outrage be damned, the Pats went full steam ahead and signed the malcontent who livestreamed his way out of Oakland just months after Facebooking his way out of Pittsburgh. He’s got more baggage than Terminal C at Logan Airport, and that was before a civil suit was filed alleging Brown sexually assaulted and raped a woman back in 2017 and 2018.

The Patriots brought this on themselves. Brown has been a “me first” guy his whole career. He has indisputable talent and will give Tom Brady a deep threat that makes the New England offense scary.

But at what cost? Did the Patriots really need to bring the AB Circus to Foxborough? They would’ve beaten the hapless Dolphins with or without Brown at wide receiver. They would’ve won the division. Brown certainly gives them more football talent, for sure … if he makes it through the season and doesn’t pull the type of stunts he’s pulled throughout his career. That’s a big if.

The contract dilemma facing the Red Sox isn’t about talent or character. Mookie Betts has both to spare. It’s about the direction of the franchise. When the baseball season mercifully ends in two weeks, the Sox will have exactly one year of control remaining over the man named the American League MVP just last year. He is one of the game’s top players, but has yet to give any true indication that he wants to sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

If the Red Sox were headed back to the postseason, it would be simple to suggest they should keep Betts regardless of his long-term decision. They won it all last year, and if they were looking at keeping the window of opportunity open, it would be worth holding onto Betts – even at the risk of losing him to free agency after the 2020 season.

Now, after the most disappointing Red Sox season in years, the team can no longer take that risk. They need to be bold as they navigate through a reset that needs to focus on pitching. The new general manager must try to lower payroll while staying competitive. It won’t be easy. Moving Betts could help accomplish that by acquiring pitching help for the current rotation, as well as an arm (or two) that could bolster the farm system. Additionally, a trade would free up payroll to address the bullpen via free agency.

A lineup without Betts, and potentially J.D. Martinez if he chooses to opt out of his contract, would be a very different offense in 2020. The Red Sox have had plenty of offense in 2019, though, and it didn’t get them to the playoffs. It’s time to change course, even if it means trading away a mainstay in your batting order.

If the new GM can sign Betts to a long-term deal that doesn’t include overpaying him, then fine. If not, it’s time to make a move and let another team worry about his contract.

Every contract negotiation presents a different set of challenges for the teams and players involved. The Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox are all dealing with deals that will dictate their success on the field or arena – and their image off of it.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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