Motivation: I once had one surplus card on my hand, and knew the robbers would come soon. So I gave it to someone for free, to avoid losing more cards when they hit.
I was surprised by how badly this was received. Two of the three other players (the hosts of the game) acted upset, like I had tried to cheat. I had to take the card back, get robbed the next turn and 'giving cards away for free' was banned immediately. (Oh, how I hate mid-game additions to the rules. But that's beside the point.)
So now the question: Is this really illegal in Settlers of Catan? Is it generally considered underhanded in any way? If so, why?
My reasoning was like this:
Consider players A and B.
A wants to give B a sheep.
A trades a sheep and one rock to B, in exchange for wheat.
A trades the received wheat for the (formerly his) rock.
A and B now both have the same resources they had in the beginning, only the sheep has moved from A to B.