Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake’s all-time leading goalscorer, has left the club in what can only be described as an unceremonious trade deal sending him to D.C. United in exchange for a player.

Five years and change since joining RSL in 2010, Saborio was sent to the Eastern Conference side in exchange for Luis Silva, an attacking midfielder with promise but a reputation for injuries and a potential move to Mexico looming.

On the face of it, the trade looks like a lopsided one. It leaves D.C. with a proven goalscorer with plenty of experience in the league, and Saborio plays in a position they’ve needed to fill. He’ll also be playing alongside Fabian Espindola, his strike partner at Real Salt Lake from 2010 to 2012.

But 2015 hasn’t been kind to Saborio’s time at Real Salt Lake. A controversial moment in June aside, the details of which were never confirmed or reported reliably but did lead to the Costa Rican missing a match for RSL, Saborio hasn’t ever really fired on all cylinders.

It’s been a tough year for the team, though, and Saborio’s production drop correlates almost directly to a change in formation and general tactical approach. RSL struggled significantly to put together anything approaching a smooth match, let alone a real positive result.

With those things as context for a larger internal need for a squad shakeup, Saborio was probably the most likely player to go. He was just outside the core group of players (Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales) but had a salary to match. Having established a need for some movement, the team had to free up salary space.

After all, RSL's situation is such that they couldn't really maneuver without a change, because the roster is front-loaded with well-paid (relatively speaking, at least) veterans. Offloading Saborio in exchange for Silva meant a reprieve from some of the salary cap restrictions by nature of their contract sizes. Silva, at last report, made in the $150,000 range; Saborio was closer to $450,000. That $300,000 gap — prorated, presumably — opens enough salary cap space that movement is not just possible, but inevitable.

Luis Silva comes to Real Salt Lake not as a solution, but as a byproduct of an attempt at one. What comes next for Real Salt Lake will almost certainly define 2015, if not beyond.

Only once since 2007 has Real Salt Lake done a straight player-for-player swap, bringing in Colorado Rapids’ Kyle Beckerman in exchange for Mehdi Ballouchy. It was probably one of the greatest coups in Major League Soccer’s still-short history.

While both players were on reasonably level ground before the trade, the post-trade aftermath saw Ballouchy as an MLS journeyman, while Beckerman became the rock at the core of Real Salt Lake’s success.

That’s not to suggest, of course, that anything similar is going to happen in this deal. But it does lend some food for thought. Is Real Salt Lake’s 2015 campaign so wayward that it needed a shakeup — a move so significant that it made everybody sit up and pay attention? Maybe. The team hasn’t put together more than a few good performances, and they haven’t exactly torn up the standings, either, with a 5-7-8 record on the season.

Despite all the questions it provokes — “what’s next?” is the most pressing one — there’s still an overwhelming sense that this Saborio trade happened at the right time. RSL is, for the first time since 2010, not dependent on his playing. Sebastian Jaime has started scoring goals, while his greatest quality — being a strong body up front in a possession-oriented system — is being phased out in favor of a more mobile player in a central position.

Maybe it was Real Salt Lake looking for a player that fits that bill a bit more snugly that led to the move, or maybe it was a need for fresh blood for a struggling team. Whatever the reason, Alvaro Saborio’s time at Real Salt Lake came to its unceremonious end on Thursday, and Real Salt Lake fans are only left with the memory of his five years of goals to show for it.

Matt Montgomery is the managing editor of RSL Soapbox.

Twitter: TheCrossbarRSL