New York Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett says "it was not an easy decision" to trade captain Sacha Kljestan this week.
The Red Bulls shipped Kljestan -- the league's assists leader the past two seasons -- and $150,000 in allocation money to Orlando City in exchange for Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding.
It marked the second straight January in which New York has dealt away its captain in the offseason, after Dax McCarty joined the Chicago Fire in a surprise move in 2017.
But Hamlett said he believed the young players the Red Bulls got in return -- Rivas is 23, Redding 20 while Kljestan is 32 -- would allow the team to get better in the future when they join fellow budding stars like Tyler Adams and Michael Murillo.
"Listen, it was not an easy decision," Hamlett told reporters on Thursday. "We assessed our roster both in terms of how we can improve our team and a situation that was advantageous for Sacha and looked and spoke to different teams and saw the ability to add two young players in Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding who we know pretty well obviously from playing them over the last three years in the Eastern Conference.
"We felt that these players have certain profiles, certain characteristics that we think would fit well within our team. And so, it's never easy when you trade your captain, but our job is to make sure now that we continue to improve our team and make some tough decisions.
"This was a hard one but in the end, we felt that it was the right decision for us."
The Red Bulls have also looked to replace Kljestan with Alejandro Romero Gamarra, but the deal has yet to go through despite his Argentine club Huracan announcing a $6.25 million transfer, which would be a record for the MLS club.
Reports have said Romero Gamarra's agent is demanding a higher percentage of the sale for the 22-year-old, and Hamlett could not provide any further update.
"Obviously, you guys have read the reports and we're trying to navigate through that situation at the moment That's the most information I can give you right now," he said.
"But yeah, we do know that obviously with Sacha gone, he's been a big part of our production in the attacking part of the field and so we know that we need to address that spot.
"But we feel that we have some different players who can fit within that role and we do know that we'll continue to look into filling that role."
Hamlett also confirmed that midfielder Adams will join up with the United States squad when its annual January training camp begins next week. The 18-year-old made his senior international debut in November in the 1-1 draw in Portugal.