Betis had a bright start to the game with Ruben Castro and Bruno both coming close in the opening five minutes before Neymar's tame effort at the half-hour mark was Luis Enrique's sides only real opportunity before Betis were reduced to ten with Heiko Westermann been dismissed.
Barcelona took the initiative at the beginning of the second period with a chance from Luis Suarez before Rakitic fired home the opening goal of the contest five minutes after the restart. The game burnt out from that point with Suarez having a good opportunity before he doubled their lead to seal the crucial victory.
Slow and steady
Juan Merino's men came flying out of the traps at the Estadio Benito Villamarín and Betis had two quick fire opportunities to take an early lead against Enrique's side.
The first came after just four minutes when club top scorer Castro tried an effort from range but the deflection from Javier Mascherano took it wide. From the resulting corner defender Bruno rose highest and his looping header was just tipped over by Claudio Bravo.
Barcelona hadn't really been in the game for the majority of the first 45 minutes as their real opportunity didn't arise until the 28th minute. Full-back Jordi Alba did well to prevent the ball from going out of play and brought it back to Neymar but his tame effort proved easy for Antonio Adan.
The hosts had been performing well so far and had kept the Catalan giants at bay but the difficulty of their task was increased ten minutes before the break when they were reduced to ten.
Merino could have no complaints as Westermann stupidly clipped Ivan Rakitic and referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz had no hesitations but to give the German his marching orders.
Flying out of the traps
Enrique's side have become renowned for coming out in the second period all guns blazing and this match was no different as they managed to take the lead.
Suarez had been in hot form of the past few weeks with eight goals in the last two games and looked destined to make it nine as he was played through brilliantly by Neymar but somehow the Uruguayan put it wide of the post.
Luckily Rakitic had shooting boots seconds later but it proved to be a poor example of defending from the home side.
Messi chipped the ball over-the-top which German Pezella looked to clear in spectacular fashion while Adan came flying out of his goal. Their misjudgments allowed the ball to roll through to the Croatian who simply tapped home.
Third time lucky
As the game entered it's closing stages Suarez was handed his second golden opportunity of the afternoon when Messi fooled the defender before teeing up Suarez but Adan did well to spread himself to block his effort.
Barca killed the game off with ten minutes to play as Messi produced an excellent through ball which took five players out of the game and found the darting run of the Uruguayan who despite the deflection off Adan made no mistake as he stuck home his 35th league goal of the season.