This comes out of nowhere.
While future planning might be part of the team's thinking -- Collins will be a free agent after the season and negotiations haven't progressed -- that is only part of the decision. The New England Patriots get a third-round pick in return. Had Collins departed as a free agent after the season, the club probably would have received a third-round compensatory pick in 2018.
So one could make the argument that the Patriots could have kept Collins for 2016, as they are well positioned for a Super Bowl run, and simply waited another year for the third-round pick.
With that as a backdrop, consider these thoughts from former Patriots assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi:
Not surprised by the Pats trading Colllins. Not been playing well at all they need to get the defense fixed. This will get their attention— michael lombardi (@mlombardifoxtv) October 31, 2016
Collins on the second play of the game does whatever he wants and Bills gain 28 yards. Been happening all year. It was not going to continue— michael lombardi (@mlombardifoxtv) October 31, 2016
It was also notable that Collins didn't play every snap in Sunday's win over the Bills, totaling 48 out of a possible 78. That was unusual, as he normally is an every-down player, but as part of the defensive game plan, Collins was kept on the sideline when the Bills had thumping fullback Jerome Felton on the field.
This seemed to indicate the thinking of the coaching staff that Collins wasn't as good of an option against the run as rookie Elandon Roberts.
So while the public perception of Collins is of a top linebacker in the NFL, that line of thinking didn't seem to be shared by Belichick and parts of his coaching staff and ultimately led to Monday's trade.