Mookie Betts will likely be traded by the Boston Red Sox, a move Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has little choice but to make.  Associated Press/Charles Krupa

Pitchers and catchers report for duty next week in Fort Myers, Florida. It’s the start of a 2020 Boston Red Sox season that is, at this point, most notable for the uncertainty around it.

In recent days that uncertainty has centered around one of the best players in the game. The Mookie Betts trade talks appear to be coming to a resolution, with various reports saying he could still be swapped to either the Dodgers or the Padres.

The reaction to this news by many fans is “why?”  Why does a former MVP need to go? This deal clearly isn’t about making the 2020 Red Sox better. The best lineup Boston could field would have Betts sitting in the leadoff spot.

As we all know, this deal is about money. But don’t be confused by what that means. The deal isn’t about a lack of funds – the Red Sox make plenty of money and have shown a willingness to spend exorbitantly. They’ve had the highest payroll in baseball for years now.

It’s also not about getting below Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax, even though that is a goal the organization set for itself last fall.

This is about getting a return on investment. It has seemed clear for a while now that Betts is not going to sign a long-term contract extension to stay in Boston. That became even clearer last week when WEEI’s Lou Merloni reported that Betts turned down a $300 million offer last week and countered with $420 million.

That is an astronomical sum of money, even in a $9 billion industry. It’s also the type of contract that can tie up a franchise’s financial resources for a baseball lifetime. If you are Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, just months into the job, it’s the type of deal that will limit any franchise-building for years to come.

The choice Bloom faced became very clear. Do you deal Betts now in return for young players and the payroll flexibility any baseball executive craves, or do you hold onto Betts for this season and cross your fingers that he re-signs next fall after reaching free agency?

If you hold onto Betts, are you the favorite to win a World Series this season? The answer, on paper, is no. This team, even with so much returning talent from the 2018 championship season, does not match up with the reloaded New York Yankees as the season begins. It should still be a team that competes for a wild card spot, but that should be the case with or without Betts.

We’ve seen this scenario play out in Foxborough time and time again. Bill Belichick has surprised us by trading players like Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins, Jamie Collins and, of course, Jimmy Garoppolo. Belichick keeps the Patriots at the top of the league by flipping players when they still have value.

So Bloom, faced with the prospect of losing a cornerstone and getting nothing back, needed to see what he could get for a superstar. He was part of a Tampa Bay front office that kept the Rays competitive by repeatedly moving players at or near the top of their game for young stars who could blossom in St. Pete.

All of this was happening while Bloom is still searching for a manager, and while the team awaits the results of the MLB investigation into alleged cheating during the 2018 championship season.

All of this is playing out in the final days before spring training. Suddenly, the challenges of a marathon baseball season seem less daunting than what the organization has faced in the offseason.

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

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