ESPN says it’s inevitable now and Randy Moss is going to go the the Minnesota Vikings with the New England Patriots receiving a third-round pick in return.

While the argument can – and will – be made that this is a better move for the future, that the Patriots got something for Moss instead of just letting him walk at the end of the season, no one can argue that this move makes the Patriots a worse team this season.

It’s always a tricky thing trying to weigh the needs of the future against the needs of the current team. And Bill Belichick has shown no qualms about showing other stars the door. But this is an especially troubling (potential) trade for many reasons.

First of all, it’s in the middle of the season, right after a rousing win that saw all facets of the team get involved. Even Belichick was smiling after that one. Most would see it as an encouraging sign that the team was able to win without Tom Brady having to look for Moss for three touchdowns in order to squeak by with a 35-28 victory or some such thing. And most were.

Second of all, the Patriots are already a young team and are already stacked with draft picks. If this trade goes through and the pick is a 2011 pick, the Patriots will have two picks in each of the first four rounds. While that does hold some value, unless the plan is to turn around and package some of those picks for an impact player – either offensive or defensive – having that many picks seems lucidrous.

In addition, the Patriots severely weakened what has been seen as its biggest strength. Whether catching the ball or not, Moss has been an important element for the offense because his super star abilities – whether real or perceived – force teams to stretch out their defenses. That ability to stretch things out has been a big reason why a Wes Welker that is less than 100 percent after a knee injury that ends some careers and rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been able to make such an immediate impact. The running game proved it can be effective – Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Sammy Morris combined for 112 yards and a 4.66 YPC average – but it still cannot be relied on.

This isn’t to say the season is doomed without Randy Moss.  Tom Brady made his name with Troy Brown and David Patten as his top two receivers and Jermaine Wiggins as his top receiving tight end. In 2005 when he led the league in passing yards, he didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver. Randy Moss did not make Tom Brady.

He did make Tom Brady better, however. He made the whole team better.