This is an interesting way to put the question, and I think it strikes at the disconnect in someways between how the team presents its goals and what the fans want to hear. The Cardinals, like the Cubs and other teams, are built to win what they think is the threshold to get into the postseason. This is an approach that I first hear best articulated by Theo Epstein in 2004 when he was with the Boston Red Sox. The goal isn't to build a team that finishes one game ahead of another team whose roster you cannot control -- that is foolish. The goal is to construct a team that you think, odds on, is going to win 90-95 wins. Cardinals have said 90, and they mean that range. Cubs have just said 95, but they mean the same range. That's the target. That's the model.
Fans want to hear, like you said, "Moves in the direction of being the best team in the league."
Team says: "We cannot control what other teams are doing, what we can control is building a team that we think has the best chance to get to a level of wins few teams reach, and with fortune and health that could be the best team."
Fans: "Best team is best team. Keep up with the Joneses."
Team: "Built a roster to win 90 to 95 wins in 2015, and ended up winning 100, and needed every single one of them to win the division, but the goal was to hit that 90 to 95 win sweet spot, and so emerged the team with the best record in baseball."
Fans: "Best team is best team. Get us Machado!"
Team: "Best team is a moving target. Ninety-95 is a proven target."
Fans: "But what if you need 96 to win?"
Team: "Out of our control."
Fans: "Wait! Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't have been better ff taking different approaches, each one with hindsight. We weren't made for the same road."
Team: "It's not certain."
Fans: "No, nothing is certain."
Team: "We can still contend, if you think it would better."
Fans: "It's not worthwhile now."
Team: "No, it's worthwhile now."
Fans: "Shall we go get Machado?"
Team: "Yes, let's see."
(They do not move.)