Fluorescent proteins have revolutionized molecular biology research and provide a means of tracking subcellular processes with extraordinary spatial and temporal precision. Species with emission beyond 650 nm offer the potential for deeper tissue penetration and lengthened imaging times; however, the origin of their extended Stokes shift is not fully understood. We employed spectrally resolved transient grating spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the relationship between the flexibility of the chromophore environment and Stokes shift in mPlum. We examined excited state solvation dynamics in a panel of strategic point mutants of residues E16 and I65 proposed to participate in a hydrogen-bonding interaction thought responsible for its red-shifted emission. We observed two characteristic relaxation constants of a few picoseconds and tens of picoseconds that were assigned to survival times of direct and water-mediated hydrogen bonds at the 16-65 position. Moreover, variants of the largest Stokes shift (mPlum, I65V) exhibited significant decay on both time scales, indicating the bathochromic shift correlates with a facile switching between a direct and water-mediated hydrogen bond. This dynamic model underscores the role of environmental flexibility in the mechanism of excited state solvation and provides a template for engineering next-generation red fluorescent proteins.