Phillies, Red Sox pursuing Mets star

The Phillies and Red Sox are among the most aggressive suitors for Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran — if not the most aggressive, according to major-league sources.

Other clubs remain strongly in the mix for Beltran, who returned to the Mets’ lineup on Tuesday night after missing three games with the flu.

The interest for Beltran is so high, sources say, that the Mets might trade him several days or more before the July 31 non-waiver deadline — and include less money in the deal than they initially expected would be necessary.

Beltran, 34, will be owed approximately $6 million on July 31. The Mets’ priority in trading him is to obtain high-quality prospects, not save money. But they may be in position to achieve both goals to a significant extent.

The Phillies and Red Sox are in similar positions — both face luxury-tax concerns, and likely would want the Mets to cover a substantial part of Beltran’s remaining salary. But both clubs also have demonstrated a past willingness to spend for the right players.

Beltran, armed with a full no-trade clause, can effectively choose his next club and require compensation to approve any deal. The Mets, though, do not expect his consent to be a problem. Beltran is a potential free agent, and could enhance his value by performing well in a pennant race.

The trade market is thin on starting pitchers and short on impact bats, making Beltran — a switch-hitter who ranks 10th in the National League with an .893 OPS — a particularly valuable commodity.

Both the Phillies and Red Sox likely would use Beltran in right field, viewing him as a difference-maker not just in the pennant race, but also in the post-season.

The Phillies, who activated center fielder Shane Victorino from the disabled list Tuesday, are trying to put together an outfield of Beltran, Victorino and Raul Ibanez. The Red Sox would use Beltran in place of the struggling J.D. Drew while keeping Jacoby Ellsbury in center and Carl Crawford in left.

Beltran remains an above-average defender as a corner outfielder, increasing his appeal to prospective suitors. The Giants, Indians, Tigers and Braves are among the other clubs that have expressed interest in trading for him.