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Time is running short for a former American League MVP to pack up the U-Haul truck and head to California. The problem is that the destination is unknown while the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres wait to see who blinks first.

The Padres seem to be the more motivated of the two to make a deal based on a greater need for help at the plate and in the field, but the Dodgers have more to offer. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking and Mookie Betts still doesn’t know where he’ll play in the 2020 Major League Baseball season.

Mookie Betts is too expensive for Boston’s taste

What motivates a team to give up on a 27-year-old veteran of six big-league seasons whose 29 home runs and .295 batting average in 2019 were consistent with his previous production? It’s money on a couple of fronts.

Mookie Betts made $20 million a season ago and is scheduled to make $27 million next season, which is manageable for large-market teams in a sport flush with TV and sponsorship money. The first problem the Red Sox face is that Betts, the AL Most Valuable Player in 2018, is a solid season away from being able to command six or seven seasons in excess of $35 million per year.

Given that he’s heading into his contract year, Betts will be motivated to put up numbers that he might not approach again while enjoying the security of guaranteed money. It’s a potential albatross that worries any general manager about to hand over big money.

The more immediate issue for the Red Sox front office is the Competitive Balance Tax, otherwise known as the luxury tax. The Red Sox would love to dip below the $208 million penalty threshold for the upcoming season but are on pace to spend in the vicinity of $225 million. As repeat offenders, their potential penalty could reach eight figures and subject them to bigger subsequent taxes in the future.

Mookie Betts to San Diego makes sense

The Padres are coming off nine consecutive losing seasons but look to be pointed in the right direction. Adding Mookie Betts would go a long way toward becoming contenders, but they understandably want to offload a problem salary or two of their own given that they’ll have to lock Betts into a contract.

The speculation this month has had former NL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and the remaining $60 million on a contract that runs through 2022 being bundled with a couple of prospects. Myers, who doesn’t hit for power or average, would only count for a more manageable $14 million against the payroll for the Red Sox.

If the Padres throw in enough cash, Boston could put up with Myers in the short term, escape the luxury tax and presumably eventually benefit from the prospects they acquire from San Diego’s strong farm system.

Mookie Betts is the perfect fit for the Dodgers

The Dodgers possess a strong roster but understand Mookie Betts is the piece that could put them over the top after two unsuccessful World Series appearances and five other trips to the postseason in the past seven years.

Knowing that the Dodgers aren’t in payroll tax territory, the Red Sox would like to offload pitcher David Price in a trade involving Betts. Los Angeles might bite on taking on $96 million over three years for a pitcher averaging just 23 starts a season the past six years (their own Clayton Kershaw hasn’t made more than 28 starts since 2015), but the question is whether Boston will throw in some money in return for a better haul of prospects.

Slicing $59 million from the payroll in one transaction would take some of the sting out of surrendering one of the best outfielders in the sport. The Red Sox just have to decide which trade option gets them back into contention with the New York Yankees sooner.