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Mar 1, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

When you get right down to it, one of two things happened with the Red Sox and Corey Kluber. Either the Yankees outbid them to get the veteran pitcher – or Kluber took less to sign with New York.

If you’re a Red Sox fan, neither one is good.

These are unusual times in professional sports, admittedly, so there is every chance the Red Sox end up on their feet here during an offseason that remains at a standstill. (Calling the pace of this baseball offseason it “glacial” would do it no justice.) But given the interest the Sox showed in Kluber and the pitcher’s alleged desire to play in Boston – he lives in Winchester and has been linked to the Red Sox for years – well, he seemed like a logical gamble for a team that has next to no pitching.

Maybe Kluber will stink this year. Maybe the Red Sox are right. But after cutting payroll last season to get below the luxury tax, wouldn’t it be maddening if the Sox pulled up short on Kluber because of money? (They need to take a chance.) And if they were willing to give Kluber, say, $15 million … and if he still chose New York … well, that’s not a good sign, either.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Charlie Morton is removed from the game against the Dodgers during Game 3 of the 2020 World Series. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY)

The Sox wanted Charlie Morton, remember. Now we have the Kluber outcome on top of it. If those two pitchers chose Atlanta and New York, respectively, no one could necessarily blame them for wanting to be with clubs that were in the postseason last year. Given that reality, the Sox have no choice but to overpay and take a gamble, which brings me back to the first point.

If the Sox didn’t overpay, they should have. If they offered a king’s ransom (relatively speaking) and those pitchers still said no, then the Sox are really screwed.

Here’s what Alex Speier of the Boston Globe wrote about the Kluber pursuit over the weekend:

The team, according to major league sources, believed that the one-year, $11 million agreement the veteran reached with the Yankees was a reasonable one.

However, at a time when the Sox are trying to upgrade not just for 2021 but also the longer term, the team may have preferred a different contract structure — perhaps one with an option for 2022. Kluber seemed most interested in a clean one-year deal, and the Yankees represented a fit given that the person overseeing his offseason and rehab, Eric Cressey, works for the Yankees. Moreover, the fact that the Yankees are in “all-in” mode likely appealed to a 34-year-old looking for a ring.

Could the Sox have outbid the Yankees on Kluber? In theory, certainly — though within the offseason budget available to the front office, doing so would have meant lowering the bar at other areas of need. For better or worse, that’s not the approach the team is taking this winter; it will look elsewhere for a mid-rotation upgrade (Jake Odorizzi? Rich Hill? Masahiro Tanaka? James Paxton?).

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom talks with the media at Fenway Park. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY)

A couple of things here: first, the idea Kluber chose the Yankees solely because New York employs the person overseeing his rehab is a copout and everyone knows it. And with regard to the Red Sox having “other areas of need,” what could possibly be of more value to them right now than a good starting pitcher?

Other than Kluber choosing New York because the Yankees are, you know, good, there are only excuses here (and not explanations). If the Sox needed to pay Kluber $5 million more than New York, they should have done it.

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Again, there is every possibility here that Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom lands on his feet. Heaven knows there are still options available. But Kluber seemed like the perfect gamble for a Red Sox team that badly needs upside on the pitching staff.

And if the Red Sox can’t even sign players like that, well, the 2021 baseball season is Boston could be devoid of even more hope than we thought.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.