BK 76 – when did you slaughter?
The Gemara on 76B seems to be saying (in R’ Elazar’s question) that the slaughtering that creates an obligation to pay four or five times must be one that permits the animal to be eaten. If there is some other factor that is missing, for example the sprinkling of the blood (according to R’ Yochanan) or the redemption of the animal (according to Resh Lakish), then the slaughtering has not permitted on its own and would not create an obligation to pay four or five times.
Question is, Why do we care if the slaughtering permits it to be eaten on its own?
נראה לי בס”ד that the reason the Torah obligates one to pay four or five times when he slaughters the animal or sells it is because he has done something to create a greater benefit for himself, what we might call מקרב הנאתה. When he slaughters it, he now benefits directly because he can actually eat it. Before he slaughtered it, he could not directly benefit. Similarly, when he sells the animal, he has gotten money for it, which he can now directly use for his own benefit.
With that introduction, the explanation of R’ Elazar’s implication becomes clear. If the slaughtering alone does not create the ability for the animal to be eaten, because another factor is missing (i.e. sprinkling or redeeming), then that act of slaughtering has not brought about a direct benefit to the thief. This in turn means that he would not be fined the extra two or three times because he is still missing the ability to be able to directly benefit from the animal he has slaughtered.