SAN DIEGO — Not limitless.

Those were the words used by Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom as he described the Sox’ payroll budget for 2023.

Usually those words are saved for teams like the Mets, Dodgers and Yankees — teams that are actually spending well beyond what most teams do. Their payroll often appears limitless, but they have to draw the line somewhere.

The Red Sox, on the other hand? They entered the offseason with a payroll less than $140 million, almost $100 million away from the luxury tax threshold. They’ve given out just a single contract of more than two years to any free agent since 2019. And even in an offseason where the free agent pool is as deep as it’s been in years, the Red Sox find themselves pretending that they have to curb their spending somewhere.

“We’re fortunate we have a lot of resources to complete that puzzle, but they are not limitless, so we’re still trying to make the whole thing work,” Bloom said of the Sox, who have thus far only signed a pair of relievers while several top-tier free agents have landed elsewhere.

Then came an accidentally-insulting question from a reporter who wanted to know if the Red Sox were going to act with any urgency this winter.


“I don’t know that anyone here expected you to sign Verlander or deGrom,” the reporter started his question.

Nobody was there to dispute that, not even Bloom.

It didn’t matter that Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom, a pair of no-doubt Hall of Fame starters with five Cy Young Awards between them, were on the open market and open to a variety of contract structures this winter. The Red Sox weren’t going to sign them, and nobody expected them to.

How the mighty Red Sox have fallen from a team that will try to lure the best players in the game to Boston into a team that nobody expects to contend for those players’ services is a question that we’ll investigate for years.

So, is there any urgency?

“We’ve had that from the beginning,” Bloom said. “There are some players — they don’t all have to be the top headliners. But some players we want and pursued… All we can do is make sure that the players we want to add know of our interest and we’re being very clear with them about how much we value them.”


The players are being clear, too. And by not signing with the Red Sox, they’re saying, “you don’t value us.”

The Mets jumped at the opportunity to bring a reigning Cy Young Award winner onto their staff, as they agreed to a two-year, $86.66 million deal that’ll tie Verlander with teammate Max Scherzer as the highest paid pitchers in baseball history.

And the Phillies locked down their man, landing dynamic shortstop Trea Turner on an 11-year deal worth $300 million.

Most of the big-market teams were involved in the bidding for one or both of these guys. Where were the Red Sox in all of this?

The 30th-most valuable sports franchise in the world, valued at $4 billion by Forbes and still adding revenue streams annually, has been absent from the sweepstakes for the baseball players on the planet.

If there was ever a time to pursue Verlander or deGrom, this was it.


Verlander’s contract structure would’ve made him an easy fit in Boston, where the Red Sox could build around him with a high-upside staff of starters filling out the rotation. The Sox don’t know what their long-term competitive window looks like, but they know they can compete in the short-term with a few big additions.

Any team that adds Verlander is an instant contender. With 12 teams that qualify for the postseason, even the slightly-above-average teams can sneak in. With Verlander pitching Game 1 and Game 4 of every series, the odds are in his team’s favor.

Bloom said the Red Sox are in the market for just that kind of starting pitcher.

“What we’re looking for will be upside and also consistency and leadership,” he said.

So why didn’t Verlander or deGrom make sense for the Red Sox?

“Those guys are obviously both phenomenal pitchers,” Bloom said. “I know those deals are out there and haven’t been confirmed but I’m assuming those rumors (of their signings) are true. Anybody with that level of talent we’re going to look at, it’s just a question of how to make this puzzle fit with all the things we’re trying to accomplish.”


Signing the most expensive players is no longer part of their puzzle.

And they seem to be fine being on the outside looking in as the Mets, Rangers, Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Phillies, Padres and others take their pick of the best free agents each year.

Meanwhile, manager Alex Cora is flying around the country to meet with free agents, and asking his own players, including Trevor Story and Kiké Hernandez, to help him recruit.

If the Sox aren’t going to offer the most money, perhaps they can use their charm.

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