Scenario #3: A balanced trade
In our final scenario, the Cardinals take on the bulk of Trout's contract, but they receive some financial assistance. Perhaps they bring it down to $25-$30 million a year. The Justin Verlander deal this past trade deadline would be a good place to look for comps. While Verlander is a pitcher, his contract could give us some context. When the Mets traded Verlander to the Astros, the Mets also sent over $35 million to help fill in the remaining $51 million or so between the end of 2023 and all of 2024. That means the Mets are paying most of Verlander's remaining salary, excluding his vesting option for 2025. Houston sent Drew Gilbert (#52 overall prospect) and Ryan Clifford (#6 in the Mets system) in exchange.
If the Cardinals were to get $35-$50 million back from the Angels, Trout's contract would be expensive still, but more manageable, saving them at least $5 million a year. This would also require the Cardinals to send fewer players/prospects. Instead of a package of high-end prospects and talented major leaguers, St. Louis could instead send one or two prospects with major league depth pieces, something they have in droves.
St. Louis would probably have to part with one of Tink Hence, Jordan Walker, or Masyn Winn to land Trout. Should they send one of these three, however, the Cardinals wouldn't have to send over other high-end prospects. They could supplement these prospects with MLB players such as Dylan Carlson, Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan, or even Nolan Gorman. A balanced trade is probably the most likely route should the Cardinals pursue Trout.