In February of 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers made arguably the most impactful trade in franchise history. LA went all-in on superstar Mookie Betts, not only trading a perceived haul for the franchise outfielder but then inking him to a 12-year contract extension before he ever put on the Dodger Blue.
Betts is currently in his fourth season with the Dodgers and it's his best yet. His case for winning the National League MVP is growing by the day and he's arguably peaking at the perfect time. On Friday, Betts makes his first return to Fenway Park to play the team that traded him and embrace the fanbase that never wanted him to leave.
There have been some attempts at revisionist history with the Betts trade among some Red Sox fans being in denial about the lopsided nature of the deal. Some of those fans will still be that way, but the fact of the matter is that the Betts' trade has never looked better than it does right now as he makes his return to Boston.
The Dodgers fleeced the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts trade
Los Angeles traded young outfielder Alex Verdugo as well as prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong to Boston for Mookie Betts. The Dodgers also took David Price back in the deal because the big-market Red Sox were in penny-pinching mode as if they played in Kansas City.
Verdugo is still with the ball club and will be starting in the outfield in what is his first game against his former team. Wong has become a consistent presence behind the plate, starting 84 games for Boston, but isn't a bonafide starter. Downs, who was viewed as the prospect in this trade, struggled mightily in his time with the Red Sox. He was designated for assignment before the season and is now in the Washington Nationals organization.
Verdugo and Wong both started the season off red-hot while Betts struggled out of the gates, leading many Bostonians to believe that their beloved Sox won the trade after all. Betts has since righted the ship with an MVP-caliber season while Verdugo and Wong have been serviceable at best.
Betts is hitting .310 with 34 home runs, 89 RBI, 105 runs scored and a 1.009 OPS heading into this matchup. Mookie has hit nearly twice as many home runs as Verdugo and Wong combined (18), and has driven in more RBIs than the two players combined (80). Betts has a bWAR of 6.9 this season. Verdugo and Wong combined have a bWAR of 5.8.
Overall, Betts has posted a 20.9 WAR (second among MLB hitters) with the Dodgers since 2020. Verdugo has posted a 9.0 WAR (75th among MLB hitters).
The fact that Wong has turned into a serviceable big-leaguer has saved this trade from being an outright disaster for the Red Sox. But even then, Wong was never going to be this for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has an even better catcher behind the plate in Will Smith. If anything, Verdugo and Wong are the store-brand version of Betts and Smith.
Team success has also spoken for itself. The Dodgers won a World Series in Betts' first year on the club and he played a big role. Los Angeles has made the playoffs every year and has a 338-172 (.663 WP) record since the deal. The Red Sox have made the playoffs once and have a 262-250 (.512 WP) record.
Making the trade even worse for the Red Sox is the initial framework of the deal that's been lost in history. Boston initially was also meant to get Brusdar Graterol (instead of Downs) in the trade, with Kenta Maeda going to Minnesota in the initial three-team trade.
The Red Sox were worried about Graterol's physicals and scrapped that idea. Instead, the Dodgers lumped Downs into the deal and traded for Graterol themselves. The right-handed reliever has thrown 160.1 innings for LA since the trade and has a 2.92 ERA in that span.
Boston doesn't have a single reliever in the same time frame that has thrown at least 150 innings. In fact, Ryan Brasier leads all Red Sox relievers in innings pitched (120.1) since the start of the 2020 season. He's now on the Dodgers and has a 1.03 ERA in LA.
Let us all never forget that a big-market team like the Red Sox had a generational talent who was still in the very early stages of his prime and decided to trade him away just to save a couple of bucks. And let's also not forget that Boston is paying Trevor Story, who has played 13 games this season, only $5 million less than what Betts is earning with the Dodgers in 2023.