Updating drupal/core with Composer - but Drupal core doesn't update

For the past two minor release Drupal core upgrades, I've had major problems trying to get some of my Composer-based Drupal codebases upgraded. For both 8.3.x to 8.4.0, and now 8.4.x to 8.5.0, I've had the following issue:

  1. I have the version constraint for drupal/core set to ~8.0 or ~8.4 in my composer.json.
  2. I run composer update drupal/core --with-dependencies (as recommended in Drupal.org's Composer documentation).
  3. Composer does its thing.
  4. A few things get updated... but not drupal/core. It remains stubbornly on the previous minor release.

Looking around the web, it seems this is a very common problem, and a lot of people soon go for the nuclear (or thermonuclear1) option:

Updating all your servers with Ansible

From time to time, there's a security patch or other update that's critical to apply ASAP to all your servers. If you use Ansible to automate infrastructure work, then updates are painless—even across dozens, hundreds, or thousands of instances! I've written about this a little bit in the past, in relation to protecting against the shellshock vulnerability, but that was specific to one package.

I have an inventory script that pulls together all the servers I manage for personal projects (including the server running this website), and organizes them by OS, so I can run commands like ansible [os] command. Then that enables me to run commands like:

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