Major League Baseball is investigating the Red Sox for signing international free agents as part of "package deals" in an attempt to circumvent the restrictions on their bonus pools according to a report from Baseball America.
So here's the bad news: MLB officials seem to have the Red Sox dead-to-rights on this one. They went down to Boston's academy in the Dominican Republic and interrogated some players in what sounds like an awfully aggressive fashion. And per at least one source of Ben Badler's, at least some portion of the players acknowledged that they had, in fact, signed as part of a "package deal."
Here's the good news: package deals aren't against the rules, and are apparently fairly commonplace, with nobody ever getting punished for it.
Package deals are very much what you expect. A team agrees to sign a player or group of players under the condition that they sign another player or group of players. This might let a team, say, get one player's bonus under the $300,000 threshold that the Red Sox were limited to in the wake of the Moncada signing in exchange for bumping up another bonus or two.
Look, I don't doubt this was happening, in no small part because it seems nobody else does either. This is just business as usual for teams, as Badler points out, and given that the Red Sox managed to sign some pretty good international free agents in spite of the Moncada restrictions, it seems likely that's how they managed it. Yes, it amounts to circumventing bonus pool restrictions. No, that doesn't make it against the rules. If the league doesn't want teams to be doing this, then they have to ban it, or given that it's not much of a closely-held secret that it goes on (with the commissioner's office approving all the contracts along the way), at least send out some sort of memo telling clubs to cut it out. Punishment has to come through legislation, not the other way around.
So this seems like a non-story. It should, by all means, be one. Maybe this is just the league doing some mummery in anticipation of announcing a rule change they knew they were going to make all along? But this city has had too much experience with leagues making mountains out of molehills, and acting outside the realms of fairness and reason to feel completely comfortable even when the story should end with "broke no rules".