BOSTON -- Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox's president and chief executive officer, defended the team's dealings this offseason in response to a story on CBSSports.com that discussed the club's perceived frugality this winter and suggested that ownership has been spending money on its Liverpool soccer team at the expense of the Red Sox.
"We're going to have the second-highest payroll in baseball this year," Lucchino said Friday following a promotional news conference held in conjunction with JetBlue at Logan Airport. "The Yankees are from a different planet than most of the rest of us, because they're in the largest market in the Western world. But it's hard to understand that assertion given the level of commitment the club has made not to just to the Major League payroll, but to amateur signing bonuses, to international signings, anything related to the on-field product.
"I think this 2012 budget will be the highest budget in Red Sox history. It's been pretty high the last few years."
The big-market Red Sox received some criticism following the trade of infielder Marco Scutaro, a relatively affordable player whom the team traded in part to free up payroll. The CBSSports.com story mentioned that Fenway Sports Group, headed by Sox owner John Henry, has spent $179 million this year on players for Liverpool.
Responding directly to the notion that the Red Sox were being impacted by the soccer team's expenditures, Lucchino said: "That has not been the case. There has not been a situation where that was cited for a reason for us not to do something here."
Lucchino said he suspects the Sox are going to "fly by the luxury tax" threshold of $178 million.
There's about $4 million hanging in the balance if the Red Sox and David Ortiz go to an arbitration hearing on Monday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Ortiz has filed for a 2012 salary of $16.5 million, while the team filed for $12.65 million.
Lucchino and manager Bobby Valentine both said Friday they did not expect any contentious feelings if it is necessary to go to a hearing, while Lucchino said it's still possible the matter will be settled beforehand.
"It's just a business disagreement," Lucchino said. "David is worthy of a whole lot of money, and we're happy to recognize that fact. ... There are still conversations in hopes that these matters can be settled."
With two open rotation spots, Boston has been linked to free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt repeatedly this winter. Lucchino did not close the door on the possibility of Oswalt signing with the Sox.
"Until he's signed, I think there'll be a clamoring for him in a lot of [Major League cities]," Lucchino said. "I know [general manager Ben Cherington] has been in contact with Oswalt and with his agent."
Lucchino had no update on Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, but he confirmed both have been offered non-roster invitations to Spring Training. They'll each need to make a decision before pitchers and catchers report Feb. 19.