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The downgraded message is definitely misleading, and we should definitely fix that. 😅
The asymmetric behavior is intentional, though. When we first introduced the go directive we had the property that commands that add it always add the current version, not an old version. But we also have compatibility to contend with, meaning that a go command in a very old repo should use the semantics appropriate to that repo.
Those two goals are in tension, and the way we resolved that tension is: if we are going to write out a go version in a module that did not have one, we write the current version, but if we are not going to write it out we assume an old (and very widely compatible) version.