Lee was only the first piece to be jettisoned, however. After that, Houston got rid of pitchers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez before wrapping up a busy month by sending third baseman Chris Johnson to Arizona.
The trades left Mills in a compromised position with the youngest roster in the National League. He talked often about trying to get the inexperienced players to ''do the little things right.'' He hoped that if they could start doing that it would lead to more wins.
But instead the losses continued to pile up, including a 4-34 slide during one stretch, and after Saturday night's particularly embarrassing loss in which the Diamondbacks scored nine runs in the fifth inning alone, Astros executives decided it was time to move on.
Crane bought the team from Drayton McLane last fall for $615 million in a transaction that requires the club to move from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013. Crane realized that things would probably get tougher after all the deals, but he wasn't necessarily prepared for what transpired.
''We made a lot of trades and once we made that decision - Jeff started moving some of the talent - we knew we might slide back a little bit, but we didn't think it would be this bad,'' Crane said recently.
Mills was hired by the Astros after serving as Boston's bench coach for the previous six seasons. Houston offered the job to Manny Acta first, but he turned it down to become Cleveland's manager.
Mills managed in the minor leagues for 10 seasons before becoming Terry Francona's first base coach with Philadelphia in 1997. The two played together in college and again with the Expos.
Though Mills remained positive as things got worse this season, he acknowledged recently that all the trades had made things even more difficult for him.
''When we first got here it was kind of a slow transition. Now all of a sudden with the new regime changes and things we decided: `Let's do the whole thing now,''' Mills said recently. ''It definitely puts things in a situation where wins are tougher because you're dealing with a lot of inexperienced individuals.''