I just read a thing about how the Cardinals of the 1930s-1940s were like the A's of today.
Since this was before free agency, teams would sell their players to other teams. The Cardinals would consistently sell their most valuable players to other teams, but always stay competitive.
Their method, developed by Branch Rickey (before he went on the Brooklyn) was to have three farm systems. Three AAA clubs, three AA clubs, etc. That way, they had an enormous pipeline of young, talented, hungry, CHEAP players. This was at a time when some clubs wouldn't ever have their own farm teams--they would just buy players from independent minor league teams. Pretty clever. I wonder why no one does it now. Maybe it isn't allowed?