The Associated Press has undertaken an analysis of likely Opening Day payrolls, and the Boston Red Sox are expected to knock the Los Angeles Dodgers out of the top spot, where the Dodgers have been for the last four years. Via the AP, here are the projected top five Opening Day payrolls for 2018 (payroll figures are approximate) ...
Next is the Angels at $170 million and then the Yankees at $167 million. As the AP notes, that figures to be the Yankees' lowest payroll since 2003 -- quite a feat, considering how MLB payrolls at the top tend to inflate -- and their lowest payroll ranking since way back yonder in 1992.
This is all by design, of course. The collective bargaining agreement between owners and players significantly increases the penalties for teams that exceed the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold (informally known as the luxury tax threshold), especially for repeat "offenders." By getting under the threshold for 2018, the Yankees and Dodgers will be able to reset their penalty scale in anticipation of spending big money on the free agent class of 2018-19 that will include the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Clayton Kershaw (should the ace choose to exercise his opt-out). As for the Yankees, they were able to get under the threshold despite adding to the fold Giancarlo Stanton, Brandon Drury, and Neil Walker this past offseason.
As for the Red Sox, in 2018 they've got almost $100 million committed to just four players: David Price, the newly signed J.D. Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, and Dustin Pedroia. As well, if Hanley Ramirez's $22 million option vests, then the Sox will have more than $150 million in long-term salary for 2019.
On the other end of the continuum, the AP story also names the two clubs likely to have the lowest payrolls in 2018.