By Matt McCarthy,

The Red Sox have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to contract extensions in the next few years.

Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and Mookie Betts are all up for free agency either this year or next year and all will command significant money on the open market. Jackie Bradley Jr. hits free agency in 2020 and the Red Sox also need to figure out the future at first base after Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce see their contracts run out after this season.

With so many players potentially leaving town, it’s easy to overlook Xander Bogaerts’ impending free agency at the end of this year, but the Red Sox should make extending their shortstop one of their top priorities of the next two seasons.

Bogaerts is as safe and solid an investment as the Red Sox can make.

He is only 26 years, meaning his next contract will predominantly cover the remainder of his prime years. It’s hard to see a scenario in which the Red Sox or any team will be paying him into his mid-30s.

Bogaerts thrived under Alex Cora, adopting a more aggressive approach at the plate that helped him turn in the best offensive season of his career (.288, 23 HR, 102 RBI, and an .888 OPS). It’s not unreasonable to expect him to put up those types of numbers for the next four or five years.

Apr 7, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) watches the ball after hitting a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays in the second inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Xander Bogaerts watches the ball after hitting a grand slam home run against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on April 7, 2018. (Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

While Bogaerts will never be a gold glove shortstop, he has exceeded expectations and has become a solid player in the field. His bat is good enough to play at third base if a move to the hot corner becomes necessary as he ages.

With Manny Machado playing third base for the Padres, Elvis Andrus of the Rangers is currently the highest paid shortstop in baseball at $15 million per year. Bogaerts will almost certainly surpass that average annual value with his next contract, but it’s hard to see him getting an 8-year contract like Andrus with the way the last two free agent markets have played out in baseball.

How does a 5-year, $100 million contract sound? 6-years for $120 million? Fine by me.

Pablo Sandoval’s 5-year, $95 million disaster comes off the books at the end of 2019. The Red Sox can easily reallocate that annual spending to Bogaerts without it hurting them elsewhere.

A team that has spent years paying Sandoval $18 million can surely spend somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million per year on Bogaerts.

Maybe Bogaerts isn’t as dynamic as Francisco Lindor or as impactful as a healthy Carlos Correa, two players who will likely make more than Bogaerts in the coming years, but he’s still one of the best shortstops in baseball and is deserving of a long-term contract in Boston.

The Red Sox have a lot of choices to make in the next two years. Keeping Xander Bogaerts should be toward the top of their list.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.