Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy said on Friday he expects the team’s payroll to be lower in 2024 than it was in 2023. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD — After months of speculation about how aggressively the Red Sox would spend in an effort to improve their team in 2024, team president and CEO Sam Kennedy acknowledged Friday that he expects the team’s payroll to be lower this season than it was in 2023.

Boston’s payroll last season was a tick over $225 million, below the first competitive balance tax threshold of $233 million. In 2024, Kennedy said, the expectation is that the final tally will come in below that mark despite the first CBT threshold being raised to $237 million.

“It probably will be lower than it was in 2023,” Kennedy said before the team’s Winter Weekend began at the MassMutual Center. “I don’t know that for sure. We don’t talk about specific payroll numbers.”

After spending more than $241 million on their championship roster in 2018, the Red Sox again exceeded the CBT threshold in 2019 with $245 million in spending, then – after proclaiming that they would – dipped under the threshold in 2020, spending less than $183 million after trading Mookie Betts and David Price. They barely came in under the CBT mark of $210 million in 2021, then went over in 2022 when they spent $237 million. Last year marked a reduction, and it appears 2024 will once again.

Public projections have Boston’s current payroll mark – pending any further additions – at around $202 million after the additions of Lucas Giolito, Tyler O’Neill and Vaughn Grissom and the subtractions of Chris Sale and Alex Verdugo. Three other contributors from last year – Justin Turner, James Paxton and Adam Duvall – are still free agents.

Lucas Giolito is the only free agent the Red Sox have signed to a contract of more than $1 million this offseason. Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

That Boston has added just one free agent (Giolito) for more than $1 million this winter is something of a surprise after Chairman Tom Werner declared the club would go “full throttle” in its attempt to build a contender in November. But Boston’s actions have suggested a less expensive approach. In addition to shedding payroll in the trades that sent Sale to Atlanta and Verdugo to the Yankees, the Sox have expressed to some free agents that they planned to shed more money before aggressively pursuing them. The team has engaged in trade talks involving two of its higher-paid players – Masataka Yoshida and Kenley Jansen.


Werner, days after backing down from his “full throttle” comment in an interview with MassLive, defended the team’s strategy.

“I think you all know that the prize at the end of the year doesn’t go to the team with the highest payroll,” Werner said. “In fact, the three teams with the highest payroll last year didn’t even make postseason. As Sam said, we’re here to support (Chief Baseball Officer) Craig (Breslow) and build a consistent winner. And we have the resources to be competitive and we expect to be.”

Breslow, like his bosses, declined to comment on the team’s expected payroll and declined to answer if he had been provided with a set budget. Throughout the winter, industry speculation has centered around the possibility that principal owner John Henry – who was not in Springfield for Winter Weekend – has set a self-imposed budget for 2024.

“We’re not going to speak publicly about that,” Breslow said. “I don’t think it makes a ton of sense. But to this date, what I can say is that whenever I’ve approached ownership with an idea I’ve been able to point to evidence that this is in line with the vision we have and will allow us to execute it, I’ve had their blessing.

“The way I think about this is that whatever the payroll is, is a byproduct of what the most productive path is in terms of executing on a strategy and a vision and not the other way around,” he said. “That has been true. I’m focused on making the most productive decisions I can for the organization with respect to wins in 2024, and most importantly, 2024 and beyond.”

Kennedy’s comments Friday cap a week during which Red Sox decision-makers have seemingly tried to lower public expectations about impact additions to the roster before Opening Day. In multiple interviews, Breslow said the team’s main goal is to keep developing its core of talented position players while beginning to build a similarly intriguing pipeline of pitchers. All indications are that the team is more focused on seriously contending in future years than in 2024.


“We’ve been ferociously protecting prospects in our minor league system for a long time,” Kennedy said. “Going back to 2020, 2021. And I think we’re at the stage now where you’re starting to see the results of holding on to young, talented players. We hope we’re going to be competitive in 2024. That’s always the goal. I don’t think it would be appropriate to offer a timetable on anything at this point.”

Pressed on if decreased spending represented a sign to the fans that the team was no longer serious about contending, Kennedy said that spending that’s “consistent with building an organization from top to bottom” – and not solely committed to player payroll – was the more important number to the organization. He contended that the team’s philosophy had not changed in recent years.

“Nothing’s changed,” Kennedy said. “We’ve always had success when we’ve had a core of young, homegrown, talented players matched up with high profile free-agents player, impact players that come from the outside of the organization. That is something that will not change.

“That said, we have not matched up this offseason. And we recognize that. But again, the philosophy has not changed. We need to have a robust group of core, homegrown, talented players. And there will be a day when we match up again on a high profile free-agent deal, but it hasn’t happened this offseason.”

Kennedy defended the organization, saying that the top decision-makers are still as committed to winning as they were when the team won four World Series championships between 2004 and 2018.

“I understand that people equate aggressive spending with trying and we own that because we
haven’t matched up on big, boffo, long-term contracts,” Kennedy said. “There may be a perception that we’re not trying. I can assure you that we are trying. We’re building an organization that Red Sox fans are going to be very proud of. But again, it’s easy to say that. We have to go do it.”

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