The return of Jimmy Rollins to the Philadelphia Phillies for at least three more years gives us a little blast from the past.

Just a little.

As for the present and the future, you have to consider the actions of Albert Pujols more than those of Rollins. In sum, the bolting of Pujols as a free agent from the St. Louis Cardinals shows that the days of perennially good players -- or even all-time great ones -- remaining with their original teams forever are going, going, virtually gone.

Even in Rollins' case, who's to say he will remain with the Phillies beyond the new three-year deal he signed this week?

Pujols is as bound for Cooperstown as anybody, and he left his first Major League team, didn't he?

So did John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, both considered lifetime members of the Atlanta Braves. Just as Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs were considered lifetime members of the Boston Red Sox.

Elsewhere, despite following as the next Clemente or Stargell in Pittsburgh, with a storied (and long) career with the Pirates, Barry Bonds left for the San Francisco Giants. And weren't Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson expected to grow old and gray together as a Hall of Fame trio with the Seattle Mariners?

Rollins spent this week during a news conference in Philadelphia saying all of the right things.

"You have to take everything into consideration when you've been somewhere since you were 17," Rollins told reporters.

Rollins is now 33, and with everything signed, sealed and delivered, he spent much of the time flashing his million dollar -- well, make that $33 million -- smile.

"To go somewhere new, at this part of my career," Rollins said, "you feel like a rented player, because you weren't part of the process of building the team up."

Rollins was among the Phillies' primary carpenters along their way to winning the last five titles in the National League East, two pennants and a World Series championship.

On the personal side, Rollins is the definitive leadoff hitter, which has contributed to his three trips to the All-Star Game. He also is a defensive whiz at shortstop, and he has three Gold gloves to prove it. Not only that, Rollins won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 2007.

Rollins did all of that after he was chosen in the second round of the 1996 Draft by Philadelphia. He made his Major League debut four years later, and since his first full season with the Phils in 2001, he has been as constant around Philly as cheesesteaks.

That said, none of that increases Rollins' chances of joining Mike Schmidt as a lifetime Phillie.

Pujols isn't a lifetime Cardinal.

Bob Gibson. Ozzie Smith. Lou Brock. The Dean brothers. You even can throw in the combination of Tony La Russa, Jack Buck, Whitey Herzog, the rest of the Gashouse Gang and the Clydesdales, and it still would come down to this: During Pujols' 11 years with the Cards, only Stan Musial was deeper in the baseball psyche of St. Louis than this guy.

Pujols and his wife, Deidre, were huge in the community. Among other things, they ran a popular St. Louis restaurant and a foundation to help those with Down syndrome.

Nevertheless, Pujols turned down big bucks from the Cardinals for bigger bucks from the Los Angeles Angels.

Like $254 million over 10 years.

It's always about the money. Well, usually. That's why Prince Fielder is about to end his seven years with the Milwaukee Brewers to sign as a free agent with somebody who can give him a contract as close to Pujols' new dollars as possible.

Loyalty is for dogs -- or for those who don't understand that it's definitely about the money.

I'll never forget working at the Cincinnati Enquirer when Pete Rose filed for free agency after the 1978 season. Surely it was a joke, I thought. This guy was the Reds. You can't become more of a Red than this: He was a Cincinnati native. He grew up as a diehard Reds fan, and he was signed by the team in 1960 before he made his Major League debut with the Reds three years later.

Rose quickly became "Charlie Hustle" as baseball's fiercest competitor, and he also was (ahem) a pretty good hitter. So he became more of a Cincinnati icon, even before he spent the 1970s as the most popular Reds personality in town despite a clubhouse with future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Sparky Anderson.

It was called the Big Red Machine, and Rose was its engine.

No way would he leave Cincinnati ...

But Rose did, courtesy of the Phillies making Rose the highest-paid athlete in the history of team sports at the time. He signed a four-year contract worth $3.2 million.

That's when I realized the future would feature more situations like those of Bonds and Pujols than of Ripken and Gwynn.

Cal Ripken Jr. played all of his career with the Baltimore Orioles, while Tony Gwynn did the same with the San Diego Padres. But to be fair, when it comes to romanticizing about baseball's supposedly more stable days regarding the movement of significant players, you always have to remember this: Babe Ruth was traded.

Twice.