I tried to brace everyone this morning but I suspect that will have been to little avail. The reality of the situation was that Brendan Ryan was a decent player. He was an excellent defensive shortstop but he carried a rather anemic bat. While he was earning the league minimum, he was a useful component. This trade has little to do with Brendan Ryan the baseball player and a lot to do with Brendan Ryan the person.
Often quirky and occasionally flighty, Brendan was someone with a much more cavalier attitude than that evinced by the manager and team star. He had public spats with Chris Carpenter and less than subtle talking to's from various persons on the coaching staff. A fan favorite, he simply wasn't a favorite of the coaching staff.
Maikel Cleto is a hard throwing reliever from the Domincan Republic that spent some time in the Arizona Fall League. He spent the majority of last year as a reliever in High-A with mediocre results. For having a power arm that allegedly can touch 100mph, he didn't strike out as many as you'd like to see (83K in 102IP). This has to be interpreted as a scouting move and without the actual scouting reports the Cardinals turned in, I'm left a little baffled.
The Cardinals have, in essence traded Brendan Ryan and Blake Hawksworth for Ryan Theriot and Maikel Cleto. There's no part of that which screams win or loss to me. As a whole, it looks like a push. This again feeds a narrative of a team against itself though. The Cardinals have traded from a position where they are thin (SS) for a position where they have a great deal of depth (relief pitching). The Cardinals had several more years of Brendan Ryan under team control and they've swapped that for a power arm FAR from the majors.
Again, make no mistake that this was a trade about personality. While I don't think the Cardinals have actually lost much here, this is a bad precedent to set and a misguided way to assemble a team. The Cardinals are now reliant on an equally erratic Tyler Greene to act as depth for a critical position on their ball club.