One of the many reasons why the general manager position on any sports team is among the highest paid is because of the difficulty of the position.
Each year, the GM is dealt a brand new hand, with veterans retiring, young players coming up, free agents signing with other teams, and injuries coming out of the blue.
In terms of the objective of a GM, it seems simple enough. The owners give him a check with which he is told to build the best club possible.
For general managers such as Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein—of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox—the job is mitigated by very deep pockets. These teams can usually go out and get whoever they want. For others, such as Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, financial restrictions are an everyday occurrence.
Frank Wren—the Atlanta Braves general manager—lies in the middle of the pack in terms of how much money ownership gives him to play with. However, just like every other GM in sports, he has an additional task. He has to focus on the 2011 season but still every season afterward has to be accounted for.
Contenders trade valuable pieces for young talent all the time. Often, these moves are met with vitriol and hate. Fans get attached to players who have been in the organization a long time, and sometimes the move is viewed as condemning the team to failure.
For example, Danny Ainge—GM of the NBA's Boston Celtics—has received much flack for trading veteran center Kendrick Perkins for the young power forward/small forward hybrid of Jeff Green. The Celtics were a definite contender for the NBA title, and Perkins had been an important asset the entire way through but they eventually fell short without him.
The Braves are definitely a contender in 2011. Although they do not possess a loaded roster like the Philadelphia Phillies, they do have considerable talent on their pitching staff, bullpen, and position players.
As important as 2011 is, 2012 is looming.
Derek Lowe is still owed over thirty million dollars for 2011 and 2012 and is pitching pretty well so far (4.03 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). These aren't Cy Young numbers, but they are good enough to be a third starter on most teams. With two pitchers not consistently on the 40-man roster who go as a fifth starter (Mike Minor and Julio Teheran), Lowe seems like an obvious candidate for a trade.