We’ve traveled down this road before. We’ve seen Bill Belichick trade away or release big-time Patriots stars at different points in his 17 seasons at the helm in Foxboro.

Jamie Collins certainly isn’t the first.

Belichick also sent out shock waves when he dumped Lawyer Milloy (2003), Richard Seymour (2009), Randy Moss (2010) and Logan Mankins (2014), just to name a few.

And now this head-scratcher. Belichick sent the Pro Bowl linebacker to Cleveland on Monday for a fourth-round pick or a compensatory third-round pick, or bag of balls depending on your point of view.

The move was met by an initial wave of criticism among fans, with some believing Belichick had lost his mind.

If the Belichick era has taught us anything, it’s that he doesn’t do these things on a whim.

The situation with Collins is both confusing and maddening because he’s an uber-talented athlete who leaps over centers to block field goals, can cover tight ends, stop the run and get to the quarterback. He’s the super freak who doesn’t come along very often.

So it doesn’t make a lot of sense, even when you factor in Collins’ contract situation and reported demands of Von Miller-type money the Patriots won’t meet. You would think he still could help with another Super Bowl run and then walk at the end of the season instead of being subtracted from the equation immediately. If he walked, the Pats likely would have received a similar pick in the 2018 draft.

Belichick, however, wanted him out now.

“In the end we did what we thought was best for the football team,” Belichick said on WEEI radio. “We had a lot of things to take into consideration. I’m sure we could bring up a lot of points to talk about, but in the end that’s really the bottom line.”

With his track record in these types of deals, not to mention his standard of winning, he should get the benefit of the doubt.

At some point,you have to look at his resume and trust he knows his personnel. He doesn’t just give away talent like Collins for little return without reason. There’s a method behind the madness.

Maybe, in this case, it was contract negotiations or not being happy with Collins’ defense and penchant for going off the script. Maybe Collins was a catalyst for bad habits on the field or in the locker room.

Already there’s been a rash of criticism against Collins, which is part of the deal when a move like this is made.

He took a bad angle on Mike Gillislee’s 28-yard gain in the first quarter, leaving a wide-open gap. A bad play without question, but let’s not get too carried away and completely diminish Collins’ skills.

It’s hard to believe the Pats will be better equipped to handle the high-powered offenses they’re bound to see on the road to the Super Bowl without him. Whether it’s Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger or Oakland with Derek Carr, trading Collins doesn’t make them better on paper on the field.

Elandon Roberts has played well for the Pats, particularly against the run, but isn’t in the same league as Collins in terms of athleticism and being able to cover tight ends or running backs. Barkevious Mingo does have the athleticism and newly acquired Kyle Van Noy might be a part of the equation, but maybe there’s more to it.

Perhaps there’s more to come on the trade front. Maybe we haven’t seen everything up Belichick’s sleeve.

“I mean, if we have anything, we’ll let it go, but I don’t know. It’s hard to tell,” Belichick said. “It takes two teams to make a deal. Sometimes they come together quickly. Sometimes you talk for a long time and they never happen. I think people in the league know that we’re a team that will trade, so we get calls from teams. We make calls just to see what some situations are or aren’t.”

Belichick can’t like what he’s seen from his defense through the first eight games. Something had to give and it was Collins. A message was sent and it was a whopper.

But the bottom line on the deal still goes back to Belichick and giving him the benefit of the doubt. As crazy as this trade seems, it’s not the first that’s been unpopular, and it’s doubtful to be the last to test the age-old mantra of “In Bill We Trust.”