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As usual, politics and finance have much to do with it. Smith was signed towards the end of 2011, when he'd had a relatively good year on the Tech 3 Moto 2 bike and showed he could adapt well to another class.
At the same time, Cal Crutchlow was having a fairly awful time and looked like he might exit the team at the close of 2012, depriving the team of their much needed Dorna subsidy for running a UK rider. So Smith was a logical choice for a replacement. That Cal stepped up his game so dramatically in 2012 was perhaps a development that made Smith's signing look - in retrospect - a little hasty.
The fact that #38 has personal sponsorship from Monster Energy (who fund the MotoGP team) and that his management team WMG have strong ties to Monster also figure strongly in the signing. It's not hard to join the dots once you glean something of the managerial/sponsorship situation.