Tuesday night Aaron Judge came to Fenway Park and put on a show.

The New York Yankees slugger, currently in the midst of one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history, hit his 56th and 57th home runs of the season to power his team to a thrilling extra-innings win. He’s now closing in on Babe Ruth and Roger Maris’ old home run records, and at season’s end he’ll become one of the most highly sought after free agents in years.

With that backdrop, it was hard not to watch Judge and imagine him crushing balls over the Green Monster next year wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Crazy, right?

The idea of Judge signing with Boston seems almost too good to be true. It’s especially difficult to imagine the Red Sox spending the money it would take to sign him, not after they couldn’t reach a deal with Mookie Betts and seemingly haven’t been willing to break the bank for Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers.

Those failures have fed a narrative that the Red Sox are out of the superstar business and would rather win “the smart way” like Tampa Bay than by investing heavily in elite players.

Don’t buy that. The reality is the Red Sox are better positioned to chase a star like Judge now than they’ve been in years.

When Chaim Bloom was hired after the 2019 season, the Red Sox were a mess. The club not only had the worst farm system in baseball, but also nearly $186 million in payroll commitments for 2020, leaving the Red Sox only about $22 million below the luxury tax threshold. Bloom had no good options, and the end result was the Betts trade, an aggressive roster teardown and a last place finish.

Going into 2021 things had improved somewhat, but the financial picture still wasn’t great. Baseball was reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Red Sox had just $36 million to work with below the luxury tax. As a result, Bloom took a low-cost, incremental approach by signing players like Kiké Hernández and Hunter Renfroe on the cheap. The club wound up two wins away from reaching the World Series.

And this past winter? The lockout complicated matters and disrupted the usual offseason flow, but once the new labor deal was reached the Red Sox found themselves around $32 million below the luxury tax again. Bloom made his biggest splash yet by signing Trevor Story, but nothing else nearly that impactful. The Red Sox are on track to finish last again.

You see the trend? The Red Sox have been stuck in a small-market cycle while still boasting one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, but this offseason that will finally change. According to Spotrac the Red Sox have nearly $100 million in payroll coming off the books, and that’s not even factoring in Xander Bogaerts, who is currently making $20 million per year and is expected to opt out of his contract at season’s end.

For the first time since he came to Boston, and really for the first time ever going back to his Tampa Bay days, Bloom is going to have real money to spend.

Which brings us back to Judge.

What better way to change the narrative that Boston isn’t willing to invest in superstar players than by signing the biggest, brightest star of them all? Judge is a larger than life figure in baseball and would become a transformative signing for the franchise. He checks every single box for the Red Sox — power threat, outfield upgrade, proven All-Star performer — and ripping him out of the Yankees lineup would be the icing on the cake.

Judge won’t come cheap. Prior to the season he reportedly turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million offer from the Yankees that would have paid him $30.5 million per season. Since then he’s put together one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history and now it’s hard to imagine him signing any deal that isn’t worth at least $300 million. That would make him far and away the most expensive player in Red Sox history, dwarfing David Price’s $217 million deal from 2015.

Yet even at that price, the Red Sox could still afford him with plenty of room to spare.

Think of it this way. With the money they have freed up this offseason, the Red Sox could sign Judge to a massive, $40 million per year contract, ink Bogaerts and Devers to huge extensions close to $30 million per year each, and still have roughly $30 million to work with before touching the luxury tax. They’d still have the resources to address the starting rotation and bullpen, and they’d have a championship-caliber core consisting of Judge, Devers, Bogaerts and Story locked up through the rest of the decade.

It may seem contrary to everything we’ve come to expect in recent years, but the Red Sox signing Judge makes all the sense in the world. The only question is whether or not they believe he’s their guy, and if he is, then there’s nothing stopping them from doing whatever it takes to bring him to Boston.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com.

Twitter: @MacCerullo.


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