TAMPA — David Stearns has always left wiggle room for the ad lib. Such is life when balancing between prioritizing the future by — among other items — seeing as much of your young players as possible and still insisting that the playoffs, in 2024, is a goal.

Thus, the Mets president of baseball operations also was vacillating between wanting J.D. Martinez, but wanting to wait — if possible — for his price fell into a range with which he was comfortable. And at some point when Martinez was willing to agree to a one-year, $12 million pact with heavy deferrals that bring the current value down to around the $10 million range for luxury tax purposes, well, the future became more about now.

The agreement, which was pending Martinez passing a physical, includes a prior consent by the veteran slugger to accept a minor league option for at least 10 days to build up at-bats after missing most of spring training. But when he arrives to the big club, that almost certainly will remove one of the inexperienced players, Mark Vientos, from the major league roster; if it doesn’t just do that from the outset of the season.

So why did the Mets do it:

1. Because there is a snarl of potential NL wild-card teams and a few such as the Cubs (Cody Bellinger), Padres (Dylan Cease) and Giants (Matt Chapman, Blake Snell) made late upgrades. So the Mets countered now with a much surer piece than hoping Francisco Alvarez or Brett Baty might grow into protecting Pete Alonso.

“This isn’t just gonna affect just me, this is gonna affect everybody because I think the more length you have in a lineup the more wear and tear you can put on the pitcher that day and through the course of a series,” Alonso said. “This is going to be huge for us.”

2. Because breaking in two youngsters simultaneously is tough. Baty, Vientos and even to some degree still Alvarez are still establishing themselves. To do that, in New York, for a playoff hopeful, that is a tough trifecta. Plus, Stearns is as rational about the long season as anyone I have ever covered and has persistently said not to get caught up with Opening Day rosters, for example. He believes over the course of six months injuries or lack of performance will open opportunities for players such as Vientos, who — of course — hit his team-best fifth spring homer on Friday off the Yankees’ Luis Gil on the day Martinez arrived to the Mets’ Port St. Lucie training facility.

3. Because while replacing young players in the lineup, Martinez might also help young players. Alonso called Martinez a “hitting savant” and said how much he enjoyed their time together at the 2023 All-Star Game. Martinez has the rep for loving to talk about the art of hitting. When I asked, via text, if Martinez will upgrade the Mets hitting culture, Alex Cora, Martinez’s manager in Boston for four seasons (including the 2018 championship), responded: “100 percent.” For the why: “Preparation. Focus. Accountability.”

4. Because of Starling Marte at age 35. No one wants to say it out loud and Carlos Mendoza went the other way and insisted he believes Marte, off of an 86-game injury-touched poor season, has looked good to his eye. But I sense organizational concern, at minimum. After being a second-place-hitting catalyst for the 100-win 2022 Mets, Marte is going to bat down in the lineup. If he does not rebound, the Mets have added a strong right-handed bat.

5. It reiterated the Mets’ commitment to winning this year. Even with deferrals, Martinez will cost Cohen more than $20 million with luxury tax included. Still, Cohen texted Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo just “J.D. Martinez” on Thursday night to let them know who was coming aboard. There is some worry with Martinez turning 37 in August and coming off bellwether signs of aging such as a lower walk rate and the highest strikeout rate of his career (31.1 percent).

But within the powerhouse Dodgers order, in just 113 games, Martinez had 103 RBIs and his 6.9 homer percentage (on 31 homers) was fourth among those with at least 450 plate appearances, behind just Matt Olson (7.5), Shohei Ohtani (7.4) and Alonso (7.0).

“He’s been one of the best hitters for a very long time,” Lindor said. “So I’m super happy to have him.”

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