The easy road for the Los Angeles Dodgers would have been finding a way to keep A.J. Ellis, who was traded to Philadelphia on Thursday, and still acquire Carlos Ruiz. Given that Ellis is a free agent after this season and has no lasting value to the Phillies, this presumably was something that could've happened.
By keeping Ellis for another six days leading up to the September roster expansion, the Dodgers would've veered around the clubhouse-culture landmines -- like the reaction of Ellis' best friend on the team, Clayton Kershaw, who happens to be the most important person in the organization.
It's not as if Kershaw will interrupt his rehabilitation because Ellis was traded; Kershaw will always compete ferociously, and he'll work through his back trouble and get back on the mound. Ruiz has hit lefties better this year than Ellis has and might well turn out to be an upgrade. But the risk in the deal is real because it creates a 20/20 hindsight situation.
If the Dodgers go on to win the NL West and reach the World Series for the first time since 1988, this deal will probably be forgotten and forgiven by the players. Chase Utley, Ruiz's former teammate in Philadelphia, can vouch for how good Ruiz can be, with the 2008 championship ring they both wear as evidence.
But if the Dodgers' recent success fades and the San Francisco Giants run them down, and they exit quickly from the playoffs, this will be added to the list of decisions in which the Dodgers' front office was perceived to be tone-deaf to the sentiments of its players.