Boston Red Sox: Like It or Not, Timing Is Perfect for John Henry to Sell Team

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterSeptember 13, 2012

The Boston Red Sox went into fire-sale mode a few weeks ago, sending Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and about $250 million in salaries to the newly rich Los Angeles Dodgers.

The craziness may not be over yet. Fire-sale mode is one thing; full-on sell mode is another thing entirely, and it could be next.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry and the team's ownership group are "mulling" whether to sell the team (via Charlie Gasparino, In fact, they've already begun "quietly shopping the team to potential buyers."

Your response to these rumors, Mr. Henry?

"A sale of any kind is so far from our thinking it hasn't even come up apart from technical planning issues involving death or disability. This report is completely without foundation," said Henry on Thursday, via Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.

Henry went on to insist that the Red Sox "are not for sale and will not be for the foreseeable future."

So for what it's worth, the horse's mouth would prefer that you forget ever hearing that the Red Sox might be for sale. Henry is trying to Jedi-mind-trick Red Sox Nation into moving along.

I'll grant that his denial of the report shouldn't be written off completely. It is his team, after all. He would know whether or not it's up for sale.

But let's not kid ourselves. If Boston's brass is indeed shopping the team around to interested parties at this juncture, nobody is about to come out and spill the beans about what's going on behind the scenes. Especially not if they're just doing their due diligence, as any good ownership group should do every now and again.

And let's face it. Now is the perfect time for Henry and his underlings to see what kind of absurd dollar amount they could get for the Red Sox. If they were to see a dollar amount out there to their liking, now would actually be the perfect time for them to go ahead and sell the team.

Henry and the rest of the team's brass—namely team president and CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner—are well aware of what happened in Los Angeles earlier this year. The Dodgers, one of baseball's most storied franchises, sold for a record $2.15 billion. Previous owner Frank McCourt bought the franchise for a mere $430 million in 2004. His investment paid off in the form of a $1.72 billion profit.

A similar profit won't be in the cards if Henry chooses to sell the Red Sox, but we are indeed talking about a not insignificant return on his original investment.

According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Henry paid $700 million for both the Red Sox and for control of NESN in 2001. Forbes recently set the value of the Red Sox at $1 billion, but Gasparino's report says that the club could sell for as much as $1.3 billion.

If NESN, of which 80 percent is owned by the Henry/Werner-founded Fenway Sports Group, were to be included in a full auction of the Red Sox, the price could be bumped up as high as $1.6 billion. Henry could thus sell the Red Sox and control of NESN for nearly a billion more dollars than he paid for them.

But money isn't the only reason that the time is right for the Red Sox to be sold. The state of the team itself has a major part to play in all of this chatter.

At 64-79 and on their way to a last-place finish in the AL East, the Red Sox are a mess. They certainly did themselves a big favor when they jettisoned Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez, but in doing so they signed up for a rebuilding phase that could take years to produce results. For the first time in the John Henry era, the Red Sox are facing a long road back to the top.

Rebuilding the Red Sox into contenders won't necessarily be a question of money so much as it will be a question of patience and—above all—passion. 

Henry may not have much of either when it comes to the Red Sox these days, as he also has a pretty major soccer team to run across the pond. Liverpool FC needs the attention of Henry and his mates as well. Probably more than the Red Sox need their attention, for that matter.

Gasparino's report says that Henry and the rest of FSG are indeed inclined to give Liverpool a little extra attention at the moment.

"In fact, people close to executives inside Fenway say management has been increasingly focused not on the Red Sox, but on the future of the Liverpool team," wrote Gasparino.

If you're a Red Sox fan, you're probably reading that and saying, "Gee, ya think?!"

The notion that Henry cares more about Liverpool than he does about the Red Sox has been floating around pretty much ever since FSG bought Liverpool back in 2010, and it's a notion that makes perfect sense. Liverpool is Henry's new toy. The Red Sox are his old toy.

Complicating matters is the fact that Henry still has a lot to prove when it comes to his ownership of Liverpool. He has absolutely nothing to prove when it comes to his ownership of the Red Sox.

This ownership group snapped the Curse of the Bambino in 2004 and delivered another championship just three years later in 2007. It was just five years ago that they were the best owners in American sports (at least as far as people in Boston were concerned).

The Red Sox's championship years feel like ancient history now, and they have a lot of work to do to get back to being a championship-caliber club.

As Gasparino noted, the opportunity to mold the Red Sox into a championship club basically from scratch is just another thing that makes them such an attractive purchase. If someone were to buy the Red Sox in the near future, he/she would be able to rebuild the Red Sox in his/her own way. 

Had somebody come along and bought the Red Sox in 2007, there would have been no messing with them. That would have made them a safe investment, to be sure, but "safe" in this case would be the equivalent of "boring."

And make no mistake. If there are enough super-rich people out there who are intrigued by the idea of making the Red Sox great again, the purchase price for the complete package could exceed the $1.6 billion mark.

The Henry-Lucchino-Werner trio has been good to the Red Sox. The Red Sox were a sad sack of a franchise when they took over, and they quickly turned it into a world-class organization that won two championships. 

The party, however, is over. The Red Sox are in ruins, and at the end of the day we're talking about businessmen who always need to be considering what's best for business.

And right now, selling the Red Sox would be very good for business.


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