Worldwide, policymakers and purchasers are exploring innovative provider payment strategies promoting value in health care, known as value-based payments (VBP). What is meant by ‘value’, however, is often unclear and the relationship between value and the payment design is not explicated. This paper aims at: (1) identifying value dimensions that are ideally stimulated by VBP and (2) constructing a framework of a theoretically preferred VBP design. Based on a synthesis of both theoretical and empirical studies on payment incentives, we conclude that VBP should consist of two components: a relatively large base payment that implicitly stimulates value and a relatively small payment that explicitly rewards measurable aspects of value (pay-for-performance). Being the largest component, the base payment design is essential, but often neglected when it comes to VBP reform. We explain that this base payment ideally (1) is paid to a multidisciplinary provider group (2) for a cohesive set of care activities for a predefined population, (3) is fixed, (4) is adjusted for the population’s risk profile and (5) includes risk-mitigating measures. Finally, some important trade-offs in the practical operationalisation of VBP are discussed.