The Braves traded Shea Langeliers, their catcher of the future, to Oakland because they needed a first baseman, theirs having signed to play elsewhere. That happened in March. On Monday, the Braves traded for Oakland’s No. 1 catcher, the presence of Langeliers having rendered Sean Murphy superfluous to the A’s, forever on the lookout for younger and cheaper.

ExploreBraves GM on Murphy: 'Ultimately, this was the time to get him ....'

Wait a second. Didn’t the Braves have two catchers under contract who were All-Stars in 2022? Why, yes. Yes indeed.

Technically, William Contreras was an All-Star as a DH. He’ll turn 25 on Christmas Eve. He’s not yet eligible for arbitration. Travis d’Arnaud, 33, is coming off the finest season of a solid career. The Braves are crazy about d’Arnaud. One member of their front office deemed him MVP of the team that just won 101 games.

Monday’s trade included three teams, Milwaukee being the third. Contreras is a now a Brewer. Of the nine players involved, six were outbound Braves. The six included pitchers Kyle Muller, Freddy Tarnok and Royber Salinas, all listed among the organization’s top 20 prospects. (Muller was No. 1, Tarnok No. 6.)

Said Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos: “We definitely gave up a ton.”

From faithful correspondent Packer Ed, a Braves’ fan since their days in Milwaukee: “Mark, when I am confused and feel I cannot see the short-term and long-term logic of a situation, I listen to others for understanding. I cannot wait to read your column about regarding today’s Braves trade.”

Packer Ed – real name: Ed D’Agostin; he’s also a supporter of guess which NFL team – signed his note, “Totally confused.”

Yours truly answered: “I’m a little confused myself.”

ExploreBreaking down the pieces in the acquisition of Sean Murphy

Having since spent some time in cogitation, I think I know why the Braves did what they did. Back to Anthopoulos’ we-gave-up-a-ton remark. The second half was: “But we’re getting a really good player.”

The Braves didn’t have to do this deal. If Contreras keeps making All-Star teams and Muller and Tarnok become rotational pitchers, they’ll regret it. But the Braves don’t consider catcher as just one of the nine positions. They see catching as the essential adjunct to the most important position, which is always pitching.

The Braves like d’Arnaud because he’s a good hitter. (His OPS in 2022 was .791, a career best if you don’t count the COVID season.) Hitting, however, is the lesser reason. They rave about the way he handled a pitching staff that included Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider, neither established starters. The season would end with Wright winning 21 games and Strider finishing second as National League rookie of the year.

There are positions where teams are willing to sacrifice defense for offense, left field and first base being the usual two. A good team, which the Braves have been for five years, is apt to accept less hitting from its catchers. Good teams always have good pitching. (Funny how that works.) Good teams want their catchers to be pitch-handlers, pitch-callers, pitch-framers. That describes d’Arnaud. That also describes Murphy.

Murphy has won a Gold Glove. He hasn’t won a Silver Slugger, though he’s a capable hitter. His career OPS is .755. That’s better than d’Arnaud (.740), worse than Contreras (.806).

Had the Braves viewed Contreras as catcher-of-the-future material, as opposed to DH-of-the-present, he’d still be here. They’d seen enough of his defense – he was a minor-leaguer when Anthopoulos arrived in 2017 – to have doubts. Those doubts are why nine players just changed teams.

I’d guess Murphy and d’Arnaud will split duties in 2023. One can catch while the other serves as DH. Murphy, 28, is under contract through 2025. D’Arnaud, 33, is under contract through next season; the Braves hold an option for 2024.

Think of it this way: The Braves got younger at the only position where they were getting old, and they might have gotten better. Murphy’s WAR over the past three seasons is 7.3; d’Arnaud’s s WAR over 10 big-league years is 7.2.

Do the Braves have more pressing needs than catcher? That depends on Dansby Swanson, stylish shortstop and newlywed. Was this an awfully big trade to land a player who hasn’t been an All-Star? Definitely. But how does a winning team keep winning? By seeking to upgrade. By not being satisfied just to stay good.

When I’m confused, I return to basic beliefs. One basic belief: I trust Alex Anthopoulos.

Hope this helps, Ed.

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and curated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like a weekly poll, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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