Recently while moving a managed solution from Development to Test, UAT and Production Environment, we realized the if we increase the version number of the solution manually during export and try importing it, we get the option of Stage for Upgrade + Applying Solution Upgrade.
This is basically the same option we get when we clone the solution and use it for deleting the component or working with patch solution.
So basically wanted to check if we can remove components from solution by simply increasing the version number, instead of cloning the solution.
Created a solution in Dev, added a custom entity with a field named test field.
Exported it as managed and imported in the Test (version 220.127.116.11).
Then removed the field from dev.
And increased the version number to 18.104.22.168 before exporting it as managed.
While importing selected Stage for Upgrade and Overwrite Customizations. Maintain customizations should also work.
After successful import, selected Apply Solution Upgrade.
The solution upgrade was successful.
And it removed the field.
So basically, we do not need to clone a solution explicitly in our Dev, we can increase the version number while exporting and select Stage for Upgrade + Apply Solution Upgrade to remove\delete the components.
Hope it helps..