The Red Sox payroll in 1999 was $70 million, 6th behind NYY, Cleveland, Baltimore, Texas and Atlanta and barely more than the Mets, Dodgers and Arizona. That was an increase from 1998, when it was $59 million, when they were 6th. In 2000, they were 7th.
In 2001, they were second, but were still in close range with the Dodgers, Mets, Cleveland, Atlanta and Texas.
Henry buys the team in January 2002. Last year of Grady Little, 2003, the Red Sox payroll ranks 6th, behind the Rangers, Dodgers, Mets, Yankees and Texas. This lasts one year of Henry's reign, and as Francona takes over in 2004, the Sox payroll jumps to second at $125 million, or $25 million more than third. In 2005 and 2006, they are $20 million more than third, and in 2007, they jump to $145 million, $30 million more than third, and narrowing the gap with the Yankees by $30 million.
It is not until 2008 and 2009 that Cubs, Mets and Tigers catch up, and the Red Sox cut payroll to 4th. By 2010, they are back to $160, $15 million more than 3rd. This year, the Phillies passed them, but they remained $20 million ahead of 4th.
Fact is that the Red Sox were traditionally in a group of teams from 5-8 in payroll in the 1990s through 2003 and a great many teams were in basically the same range. From 2004 to 2007, the Red Sox were well out in front of everyone but the Yankees, and they won 2 world series titles.
"We remind everyone that Boston College fired a perfectly good coach because he went on a job interview, and deserves all of this." Spencer Hall