Mookie Betts

Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts smiles while attending a game between the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies at Toyota Center in Houston, Dec. 31, 2018.

The Red Sox avoided the major embarrassment of having to take Mookie Betts, the American League MVP, to arbitration. The club settled with the 26-year-old outfielder on a $20 million contract for the 2019 season, according to a major-league source.

Betts is under Red Sox control for two more seasons, this year and next. He sits atop the list of pending free agents the Red Sox will try to extend and lock up for a long-term contract before he enters free agency after the 2020 season.

Past negotiations with Betts have not gone well. He and the club could not come to an agreement on salaries the last two seasons. Before the 2017 season, Betts’ contract was renewed. A year ago, Betts and the club went to arbitration, with Betts coming out on top with a $10.5 million salary in 2018.

Had the Red Sox and Betts been unable to come to an agreement before Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline, the sides would have gone to arbitration again since the Sox do not negotiate after filing arbitration figures. The prospect of the Sox arguing for a lower salary for the MVP winner would have been a particularly unflattering look for the Sox this year, and also serve as a red flag for their chances to come to an agreement on a contract extension for Betts.