The deal between the Blue Jays and Miami Marlins, who unloaded some $160 million in payroll after moving into a new, publicly financed stadium, was approved by Major League Baseball on Monday despite protests from the Florida community.
The 12-player deal, which sent high-priced Miami players including shortstop Jose Reyes and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to Toronto in exchange for promising young players, was agreed upon last Tuesday but had been under MLB review.
"We've finished in last place the past two years, and that is unacceptable to our fans, to us as an organization, and to me," said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, according to MLB website mlb.com.
"We want to get back to our winning ways, and we want a winning baseball team for our fans. It's incumbent on us to make the changes necessary to make us a winner again."
In Miami, the deal set off controversy, upset the fan base and prompted Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado to write a letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to closely examine the reasoning for the transaction.
"After a thorough examination of this information, it is my conclusion that this transaction, involving established major leaguers and highly regarded young players and prospects, represents the exercise of plausible baseball judgment on the part of both clubs," Selig said in a statement.
"(It) does not violate any express rule of Major League Baseball and does not otherwise warrant the exercise of any of my powers to prevent its completion."
Miami parted with established veterans in Johnson, Buehrle, Reyes, infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck that instantly upgraded the Blue Jays into playoff contenders in the American League East.
In return, the Marlins received infielders Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, catcher Jeff Mathis, minor league pitchers Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani and outfield prospect Jake Marisnick.
At least four of Miami's new players are expected to be on the Marlins' Opening Day roster, Escobar, Hechavarria, Alvarez and Mathis.
South Florida frustration boiled over after the team dismantled their $101 million roster after just one season at Marlins Park, a retractable-roof stadium that cost over $500 million, with taxpayers shelling out for most of the bill.
Marlins owner Loria insisted the trade would benefit Miami's on-field performance in the long run.
"It may not happen overnight. But with the players we acquired in the second half of last season, coupled with the infusion of players we are acquiring now, we will be returning to Marlins Baseball: high energy and hungry," he said.
After struggling for most of the first half of the 2012 season, the club made three trades in late July that began their redirection, parting with the likes of infielders Hanley Ramirez and Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Miami finished last in the National League East with a 69-93 record. Three weeks after the season ended, the team fired outspoken manager Ozzie Guillen and took another step toward a more youthful future by replacing him with Mike Redmond, just two years removed from his playing days.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Julian Linden)