In addition to having won a pair of World Championships in four seasons, the Red Sox have created payroll flexibility through development. Going into next season the Sox presumably can pony up a payroll of 150,000 dollars
Here's the 2007 Salary picture.
Let's just use some approximations to guesstimate 2008.
C - Varitek 11,000,000
C2 TBA 2,000,000
1B Youkilis 1,000,000 (presumes big raise, no long-term deal yet)
DH Ortiz 13,000,000
2B Pedroia 450,000
SS Lugo 8,250,000
3B Lowell 14,000,000 (a very big assumption, may not be true)
LF Ramirez 18,000,000
CF Ellsbury 400,000
RF Drew 14,400,000
Ut Cora 2,000,000
UO Kielty 2,000,000
UO Moss 400,000
13 Positions 86,900,000
Papelbon 1000000 (presumes raise, no long-term deal)
14 pitchers 46,225,000
Including Lowell, this brings the Sox to 133,125,000, leaving another 18 million or so in discretionary money. You can use some to lock up Youkilis/Papelbon to intermediate term deals (4 years), realizing that next year (2009) you have the option to take down money for Schilling, Ramirez (maybe), Tavarez, and Wakefield, let's say another 35 million.
What keeps the deal working is the salary of young, productive, or potentially-productive players such as Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Moss, Papelbon, Lester, and Buchholz. Talk about trading young pitching for established pitching changes your salary flexibility dramatically. Trade a Lester, Crisp, and Masterson for Santana and you get a star, and an additional 17-20 million dollar a year in payroll. If you find out that Lester COULD win you 15 games, then you get a maximum of five more wins for 20 million dollars.
The Red Sox like to look at both Win Shares and trends. You can see the value of not only the bigger stars, but especially Youkilis, Pedroia, a pro-rated Ellsbury, and Crisp, especially when adjusted for salary. I'm sure the Sox have win shares/million data on every player in baseball, as well as projected data.
Here are the 3B win shares.
Here are the Lowell four year win shares. It's probably easier to argue that 2005 was an aberration, but that perhaps 2006 is the 'expected' outcome, or at best a blend between 2006-2007.
I'm not making an argument for Lowell or against A-Rod, only the importance of having a core of low-salaried productive players, which allows you to spend or even overspend on other areas.