Any trade for Juan Soto would have likely required Jordan Walker, Dylan Carlson, and other top prospects
Yes, you read that right. Any trade for Juan Soto by the Cardinals would have required a historical haul, evidence by what the San Diego Padres ended up giving up for Soto.
Per reporting from Derrick Goold, who does an excellent job covering the team, the Cardinals felt like they exhausted every option when it came to acquiring Soto. The Nationals were looking to make a deal with St. Louis due to them having a lot of high-upside prospects that interested them.
Washington ended up receiving three top 62 prospects in all of baseball, plus Mackenzie Gore, who had just graduated from being a top-20 prospect, and another quality arm in San Diego's system.
If you just compare the kinds of prospects that the Padres gave up to what the Cardinals would have to, it's pretty jarring. C.J. Abrams, James Wood, Robert Hassell III, Mackenzie Gore, Jarlin Susana, and Luke Voit would have been about the equivalent of giving up Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, Tink Hence, Dylan Carlson, and a Matthew Liberatore or Michael McGreevy type.
Sure, the deal could have been slightly different, but the point is, it would have taken a massive haul that I doubt fans are comfortable with.
It's easy to armchair GM these kinds of negotiations and say "I would have given up Carlson and these three prospects that I don't feel are untouchable" for a generational talent like Soto, but that's just not how these things work. Maybe if the Padres were not so desperate for Soto, the Cardinals could have given up less than that package above, but that's not the reality they were in. The Padres were quite literally willing to sell the entire farm, and the Cardinals were not.
Now, the Padres are staring down a potentially $400 million dollar extension for Soto while already handing out major contracts to the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Jake Cronenworth. They can probably afford to do it, but after they do, they'll be basically stuck with the team they have and lack a strong farm system to replenish their team.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, have both the payroll flexibility to go out and sign multiple high-level players (the first of which being Willson Contrereas, with potentially more to come this offseason), as well as a deep farm system that will continue to strengthen this team and give them opportunities to acquire needs like starting pitching over the next few years.
Here's the final point though, and one that I think Cardinals' fans really need to hear.