The Astros’ decision to trade veteran shortstop Jed Lowrie on Monday in a five-player deal was technically no different than any other big move general manager Jeff Luhnow has made since taking over Houston’s baseball operations in December 2011.

But with the Astros’ payroll already projected to be less than $30 million and the start of spring training a week away, the Lowrie trade feels like a tipping point for the big-market organization. In many ways, a 2013 MLB season yet to begin already feels like it’s over for the Astros; Houston’s focus is directed on 2015.

No player on the team’s 40-man roster is untouchable. And the Astros will surprise this year simply by not losing at least 100 games for the third consecutive season.

Click here to read a Houston Chronicle premium-content column about the state of the Astros.


But 2013 is really no different than 2012. Days blend into months, and months turn into a year. Through it all, players, names and stats are consumed, evaluated and turned over. Talent is an asset. Assets are traded, bought and sold. Selling high and buying low is everything for a big-market organization expected to enter 2013 with an opening-day payroll worth about $25 million – the lowest in MLB since the 2008 Florida Marlins’ total of $21 million.

Luhnow sold high Monday, and Jed Lowrie was the latest Astros casualty. The veteran shortstop and underperforming reliever Fernando Rodriguez were shipped to Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s in exchange for prospects Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi.

“We’re doing everything that we can to build a world-class organization, and that means winning at the big league level, so we’re taking that seriously,” Luhnow said. “But when we have an opportunity to acquire three players for two … and improve our farm system, we’re going to do it.”

The deal says everything about the state of Houston’s baseball team. The Astros traded recognizable MLB talent to Beane: “Moneyball” man; leader of one of the poorest teams in the game; collector of youth, prospects and assets.

The Astros are the new A’s. Luhnow’s one-upping Beane when it comes to how to reinvent a professional ballclub on the fly.