1. If the Rays want to keep Carl Crawford beyond this season, they needed to shed payroll. With more than $20 million owed to him over the next 2+ years, Kazmir was the logical choice for the Rays to move.
2. As Buster Olney, Keith Law, and a handful of other writers have noted, Kazmir's performance and stuff has been on the decline for more than a year now. The Rays simply could not afford to keep Kazmir around given his risk of decline and the amount of money he was owed.
So in a sense, Scott Kazmir was the perfectly logical choice to go. I'm not a fan of the timing, but the Rays got a good package....so what can ya do?
One final question: who is to blame for the Rays trading away Scott Kazmir?
Answer: Pat Burrell.
To me, the answer has to be Burrell. The Rays signed Burrell because they knew that as a small market team, their window of opportunity to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox was dwindling. Even though they had a young group of mainly cheap and affordable players, eventually all those guys had to be paid and would someday fall out of the Rays price range.
So Friedman did what most GMs would do in his situation, he went for it. Friedman went out this offseason and signed Burrell to a 2 year/$16 million dollar contract that was praised throughout baseball for supposedly making the Rays lineup deeper and more potent.
Unfortunately for the Rays, the Burrell contract has not worked out so far. Burrell has dealt with his fair share of injuries this season and his numbers are down all across the board. So instead of running away with the division and having the best offense in baseball, the Rays have remained behind in both the race for the AL East and the AL wild card.
So as the Rays looked towards the future this summer, I bet all they saw was a rough bunch of clouds economically. They had three guys taking up more than 35% of their payroll (Pena, Burrell, Kazmir) and they knew that in order to keep Carl Crawford around, they needed get payroll flexibility from some spot. There was no chance that the Rays would move the productive Pena and no market out there for the injury prone Burrell. Thus, Kazmir was the only candidate to be moved. The Rays took a great offer and the rest is history.
In the end, Friedman took his shot at a 2009 title and wound up hamstringing the Rays payroll. In my opinion, this risk was plenty worthwhile because if the Rays were playing better baseball, there'd be no way any deal for Kazmir would be on the table right now.